September 25, 2009

MIT unveils the $100 computer designed to educate the children of the Third World

The MIT Media Lab has launched a new research initiative to develop a US$100 laptop designed to revolutionize how we educate the world's children. To achieve this goal, a new, non-profit association, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been created. The initiative was first announced by Nicholas Negroponte, Lab chairman and co-founder, at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005 and earlier this week, Negroponte showed the first prototype images and concept drawings to the world’s press.
The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, full-colour, full-screen laptop that will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data. The laptops will be partially ruggedised with WiFi and they will also be cell phone-enabled with several USB ports. The current specifications call for a 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Megapixel computer.
The move is designed to offer the most important aid possible to a third world country – education alone will solve many of the problems of a country. The philosophy behind the initiative is that for children, laptops are both a window and a tool: a window into the world and a tool with which to think. They are a wonderful way for all children to "learn learning" through independent interaction and exploration.
The idea is to create a low cost computer by optimising the system, the system software and the componentry in numerous ways – essentially all designed to reduce the cost, weight and complexity of the computer and its constituent components. The plan also calls for the the laptops to be manufactured in very large numbers (millions) and sold directly to ministries of education in third world countries, which can distribute them like textbooks. When these machines are turned on, they form a peer-to-peer mesh network with nearby computers – a concept initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab. MIT is currently exploring ways to connect them to the Internet at very low cost.


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