Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Digital Divide

Technology revolution has bypassed billions of people around the world. Today the Internet connection, which became integral part of our life, is available only to 3.6 percent population in Africa and 69 percent population in North America. Many countries lack electricity, telephone wires, computers, and software -- this creates an electronic gap between countries, and it gets wider each day due to the effects of overpopulation, social and economic problems, and environmental deterioration.

Nicholas Negroponte, a co-founder of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a chairman of The One Laptop per Child Association (OLPC), came up with an idea to design a $100 laptop for kids in developing countires. It's a sleek looking laptop in appealing bright colors. It uses 512 MB of flash memory instead of a hard drive, has two USB ports, built-in wireless networking, a 366-megahertz processor, 1GB of memory and a dual-mode display. It uses open source and free software: a slimmed-down version of Fedora Core Linux operating system, Web browsers, eBook readers, RSS feeder, media players, wordprocessor AbiWord, gmail, Online chat and VoIP programs, music sequencer TamTam, Audio and video player software: Mplayer or Helix.

Initially, developers thought that the price of this laptop would be $100, but now it costs $175 per unit and this price doesn't include the cost of the Internet access, maintenance, repair, and teacher training. I believe that The One Laptop per Child is a noble idea, but I question motives behind selling this device to the developed countries' governments: they don't even have enough money to provide their children with food, medication, and hospitals. In my opinion, The One Laptop per Child Association should search for the donor organizations around the world who would be willing to support this great project and donate the laptops to kids from the developed countries. MIT is considering licensing the design and giving it to a third-party company to build commercial versions of the PC and $20 or $30 profit per laptop would be used for the kids' laptops. I think this is a great idea and hope that MIT would stop selling computers to the developed countries' governments.

Further reading:
The $100 laptop moves closer to reality
$100 laptop project launches 2007
World Internet Usage and Population Statistics


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