TUNIS, Tunisia – A hand-cranked laptop expected to cost $100 was unveiled by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia today. The laptop is expected to be widely available for schoolchildren in poor countries by the end of 2006.
The prototype of the green machine was exhibited for the first time by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte. Mr. Annan called the innovation “inspiring”. He said that the initiative of MIT was an expression of global solidarity, “Children will be able to learn by doing, not just through instruction – they will be able to open up new fronts for their education, particularly peer-to-peer learning,” he observed.
The machine is a wind-up crank and uses very less power to start up. It also allows children to interact with each other while they are learning, thus promoting greater understanding of the subject.
“The idea is that it fulfils many roles. It is the whole theory that learning is seamless,” said Professor Negroponte. “Studies have shown that kids take up computers much more easily in the comfort of warm, well-lit rich country living rooms, but also in the slums and remote areas all around the developing world.” Mr. Negroponte is the man behind the non-profit One Laptop Per Child initiative that envisages a laptop per child in poor countries so that the kids can be imparted a seamless education. The machine was showcased at the summit, which aims to lessen the technological gap between the rich and the poor.
Many countries have already shown great interest in buying the machine, which is expected to roll out in February next year. Negroponte said that Thailand and Brazil had shown the maximum interest and although nothing had been finalized yet, had indicated that they would like to be a part of the deal. “We are launching with six countries initially, then six months later, as many countries as possible,” said Negroponte.
Google and media mogul Rupert Murdoch have already indicated their support for the initiative. “The digital divide is a learning divide – digital is the means through which children learn leaning. This is, we believe, the way to do it,” Negroponte concluded.