The Perils of the $100 Laptop

Government is generally the home of bad ideas, but occasionally there is an exception. The much-touted One Laptop Per Child project falls into that category.

The idea is simple: in order to help developing nations to leap over the obvious economic and infrastructure barriers which prevent them joining the digital age, a project was initiated to build the cheapest laptop possible; the target price is $100 per PC.
Nigeria is the easiest and most accessible example; they have placed the first order for 1 million of these laptops. However, it’s difficult to see what mechanisms are in place so that the laptops will reach their intended recipients. Nigeria has some of the worst ratings for perceptions of corruption according to Transparency International; they are ranked 152, along with Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Furthermore, there is an existing digital culture in Nigeria which has a large, active criminal element. It’s rare to find someone who has not received an e-mail that involved what is known as “Advanced Fee Fraud”; namely, the scams that offer riches plundered from a dead West African official.

  1. AB CD says:

    They’re starting in Nigeria? Haven’t we had enough scams from there?
    This looks like typical elitism. I’m sure for the people there, a laptop is high on their list of necessities.

  2. ECA says:

    Blackball all servers from Nigeria?
    Make ISP’s RESPONSIBLE for what is SENT (not received) on their systems??

  3. OmarTheAlien says:

    Actually, there should be no restrictions on content from Nigeria or any other place. Anyone who responds to the predatious offerings pretty well receives about what they deserve. In a way it could be said the Nigerians are cleaning the American economic gene pool of it’s cretinous bottom feeders.

  4. joshua says:

    I think the project is a wonderful idea. But the people who could benefit the most from this have no access to power or phone lines much. Unless they are building WI-FI in the middle of Brazil or the deserts of Egypt, it will be tough getting online.

    I am willing to bet the poor in the world would appriciate clean running water, power lines and schools, clinics and roads a whole lot more. After they are able to feed and cloth and educate themselves then they might want to surf for porn.

  5. Mr. H. Fusion says:

    Joshua, I tend to agree with you on this one. What I might add though is I think we underestimate the amount of the world without electricity. The areas that have nothing, power, water, roads, sewage, do need more help then a little green laptop can give them. The majority of the target areas though will have some electrical supply even if it is locally generated.

  6. GregAllen says:

    Somebody here alerted me to this machine which seems better for the developing world.,,50_2330_12264,00.html

    I think it can be bought in quanitity for $150 (w/o monitor) right now with no further development needed.

    Yes, it needs power but (in my personal observation) the kind of third-world people likely to use a computer already have power.

    Those so rural that they have NO power are pretty unlikely to use a computer since they may not even know what they are looking at when they see one.

  7. Angel H. Wong says:

    Of course it will! Don’t forget that some of the best hackers in the 90s used very outdated computers to knock down Corporate servers.

  8. Charbax says:

    GregAllen, I got one of those AMD PIC $150 computers. It’s great, but current version is outdated, it’s got only 10GB 3.5″ harddrive, no tv-out, ethernet only through a usb-adaptor and the processor is just a bit too slow for DVD resolution video. Software on it also is Windows CE without support for WMV9 and DivX.

    $150 desktops with big 40GB-120GB harddrives is a great idea, as long as they got TV-output (so people don’t need to buy a $100 computer screen), so long as DVD resolution video is supported (500-800mhz processor at least instead of 333mhz of first generation AMD PIC), a bit more ram so multiple window browsing becomes more compfortable..

    I will use only a $150 dekstop and laptop computers once they manage those basic multimedia tasks I point out here. Also the $150 hard drive based Linux PDA will be very usefull. Only profetionnals need power consuming fast and expensive computers. Fastest processor will be in the PS3, so profetionnal multimedia users will just use a PS3, while the rest of the population will manage just fine with a $150 computer running Linux.

  9. Charbax says:

    Nigeria, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina have ordered and paid for 1 million of the laptops each. That’s 1 more country to go, maybe China or Egypt and the OLPC will be ready to start the mass manufacturing at the Quanta factories.

  10. ECA says:

    we have to make a 1 million order???

    Wheres your money, DOWN on the table…
    Lets order a batch and HACK them.


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