Nicholas Negroponte and Khaled Hassounah of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) met this week with the organization's Nigerian Task Force in Abuja for a progress briefing.
Negroponte is founder and chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, where much of the early development of the Internet occurred. He now serves as chairman of OLPC, a Delaware, U.S.-based, non-profit organization created by faculty members from the MIT Media Lab. The organization's goal is to design, manufacture and distribute laptops that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education.
Hassounah, OLPC's director for Middle East and Africa, is in discussions with the public and private sectors in Nigeria aimed at providing Internet access to rural areas of Nigeria using a mix of satellite, WiMax and WiFi.
Engineering the $100 Laptop
The proposed $100 laptop will be a Linux-based machine with a 500MHz processor, 128MB of DRAM, 500MB of Flash memory instead of a hard drive, and four USB ports. The laptops will be equipped with wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network - each laptop will be able to communicate with its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc local area network (LAN). The laptops will use innovative power sources (including wind-up) and will be able to perform most common personal computer functions except store large amounts of data.
Getting the cost out of the system came first from changes to the display. "The first-generation machine will have a novel, dual-mode display that represents improvements to the LCD displays commonly found in inexpensive DVD players," Negroponte says . "These displays can be used in high-resolution black and white in bright sunlight - all at a cost of approximately $35."
Next, Negroponte says, "We will get the fat out of the systems." He describes common laptops as "obese," with two-thirds of the software used to manage the other third, "which mostly does the same functions nine different ways."
The third step in cost-reduction comes from economies of scale, according to Negroponte. "We will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks."
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