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U.N. Lends Backing to the $100 Laptop 253

Posted by Zonk
from the transformers-roll-out dept.
willki wrote to mention an AP story stating that The United Nations has pledged support to the $100 Laptop. From the article: "Kemal Dervis, head of the U.N. Development Program, will sign a memorandum of understanding Saturday with Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of One Laptop per Child, on the $100 laptop project, at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. The program aims to ship 1 million units by the end of next year to sell to governments at cost for distribution to school children and teachers. UNDP will work with Negroponte's organization to deliver 'technology and resources to targeted schools in the least developed countries,' the U.N. agency said in a statement."
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U.N. Lends Backing to the $100 Laptop

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  • Keyboard Layout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Azadre (632442) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:49PM (#14571423)
    Will the $100 Notebook ship with the QWERTY Keyboard or will it be regional? (Arabesque, Hindi, Cryllic?)
  • by IAAP (937607) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:51PM (#14571452)
    I wonder, will actually make it to their intended market ?

    The aim is to have governments or donors buy them and give full ownership to the children.

    I'm going to be real curious as to the after market value of these things. If it goes above $100, you can bet that those kids won't be getting them.

    The devices will be lime green in color, with a yellow hand crank, to make them appealing to children and, so the thinking goes, to fend off potential thieves.

    So, if I paint a Ferrari lime green and put a hand crank on it, nobody will steal it?

    • "So, if I paint a Ferrari lime green and put a hand crank on it, nobody will steal it?"

      Absolutely! Why do you think all of those ricer's are painted with the gaudiest schemes possible? Those vinyl graphics aren't just for looks...they're a theft deterrent.
    • by bill_kress (99356) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:00PM (#14571619)
      So, if I paint a Ferrari lime green and put a hand crank on it, nobody will steal it?

      Depends on the size of the hand crank.
    • Ob. movie quote:

      "Will you look at that? Any man who would deface a work of art like that with a color like that ought to have his ass removed.."
      :)
    • So, if I paint a Ferrari lime green and put a hand crank on it, nobody will steal it?

      No guarantee, but if it's ever stolen and you see someone driving a lime green Ferrari with a hand crank on it, chances are pretty good that it was yours. Same idea here - you see an adult carrying around a lime green hand-cranked computer, chances are pretty good that it's stolen property (<hudsucker_proxy>"You know, for kids"</hudsucker_proxy>)

    • Very few if any will be produced or get where they are intended. The U.N. is endorsing this because they smell a way to get lots of money just like the oil for food program. Just another scam.
  • by MikeRT (947531)
    Pay to clean up the governments in these regions by bringing in consultants to train new police forces, etc. and then encourage 1st world investors to invest in the infrastructure. This approach is starting to work in some of the small Eastern European countries like Macedonia where former US agents train their national police forces to use American standards and procedures. Or how about a food aid plan where they buy the native crops first and then hire locals (with 1st world military oversight) to prepare
  • by mpapet (761907) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:56PM (#14571543) Homepage
    It's good for the project to get the thumbs up from the U.N. but I have alot of difficulty with the overall concept of delivering technology to populations that are having trouble getting their basic biological needs met.

    Maybe they have the food/water/basic education working but widespread corruption keeps the country poor. Do you see where I'm going? How is this computer going to eliminate pervasive political/social problems or otherwise redistribute wealth?

    All of the boot-strapping capitalists will flame me for "denying others the opportunity to...." That would be avoiding my question.
    • by Ryan C. (159039) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:04PM (#14571696)
      It won't cure corruption. But you can't cure corruption by spending money anyway, quite the opposite. Now empowering and educating the masses.... hey, that might work. As for restributing weath, that one is easy to see how it might work. Compare educated vs. uneducated incomes in any country.
      • You are assuming that empowering and educating requires a computer. It does not.

        You are assuming that the computer is somehow critical in the educational process when the opposite can be argued quite effectively.

        Would training the unwashed masses to use computers for the year 2020 Call Center staff raise the living standards in a country? I don't have a good answer either way...
        • Have you ever read Diamond Age? I suspect The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer is a strong inspiration for this device. Computers are not an ideal substitute for human teachers, but they are a lot cheaper. Could you give a class of 40 a teacher for $4000?

          Some things I expect this device to do:

          • Teach basic reading and writing. Speech synthesis would be ideal - let the computer read things out to the child so that they get to associate word shapes with sounds. Then get them to type the words (in areas w
          • USD$4000 would go quite far in providing teachers and supplies in developing nations.

            Worldbank.org stats make some interesting reading...
            Let's see what $4000 would buy using their Gross National Income figures with the very handy PPP calculation already figured in...

            low income country $0-$825 59 countries (at least 4 teachers)
            lower middle income, $826 - $3,255 54 countries (at least 1 teacher)
            $3,256 - $10,065 upper middle income 40 countries (maybe 1 teacher)
            $10,066 or more high income 55 countries (no teac
        • You are assuming that the computer is somehow critical in the educational process when the opposite can be argued quite effectively.

          No. From what I understand, the model for the $100 laptop is one where the most effecient way to transmit information is electronically. How much do CDs cost again? Once you get a bunch of these laptops out into the hands of interested parties, how much would it cost to give each and every person a literal wealth of texts on agriculture, engineering, history, language, et

      • In just about every case, the people who have money do get better educations.
    • Every time this $100 laptop is mentioned in Slashdot, a number of trolls repeat the same old, worn, false, arguments:

      "Why give a computer to a child that has no pure water to drink?"

      "Corruption, not lack of computers, is the true cause of poverty!"

      "They should give books, not computers, to poor children!"

      And a few more similar banalities, usually rewarded by a few "interesting" or "insightful" mod points.

      There are some very poor people living in Inglewood, CA, or Harlem, NY that do have access to drinking w

      • There are some very poor people living in Inglewood, CA

        I agree they don't live in perfect conditions. My sister teaches in Inglewood, so I've heard her stories. That's as difficult and intractable a problem as poverty in developing nations.

        Giving computers to poor people who need computers doesn't preclude giving water purifiers to people who need them.

        Yes it does. The funds for developing nations are finite. I would choose water filters over a laptop any day.
        • The funds for developing nations are finite. I would choose water filters over a laptop any day.


          When you consider different orders of magnitude, the funds are essentially infinite. A laptop computer costs $1000, a water filter costs $10. Having a $100 laptop means you can buy 90 filters and one computer for $1000. Let each of the 90 kids with filters bring a glass of water to the kid with a computer.

        • I would choose water filters over a laptop any day.

          Bullshit. Billy Gates sticks his big Windows dick up your ass and all of a sudden a free computer's the most wonderful thing in the world. Or do you retract your fawning praise you made over Microsoft's charitable donations all those times in the past?

  • by no_opinion (148098) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:58PM (#14571579)
    Originally I was a big fan of this concept, but I'm now skeptical since I've yet to see anything on the most important part of this project, namely the educational materials that will run on or be made available via the laptop. Providing Squeak is not sufficient. What material will help kids learn to read/type, basic math, history, art, etc.? Why has there been no mention of that?

    And for those of you who would link to wikipedia, etc., that's not a suitable starting place for young kids. Who is supplying the basic educational material the laptop recipients will need to get started?
  • by denverradiosucks (653647) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:59PM (#14571607) Homepage
    No Child Left Behind . . . . . Without a Laptop
  • Bad Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gasmonso (929871) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:00PM (#14571623) Homepage

    With high tech countries like the US performing so poorly in math/science and just about everything else... why on earth would we unleash this on poor nations? Would they be better of with a $100 device that makes clean drinking water? I mean there has to be something better to put all this effort towards. I understand its a noble cause, but I think its misdirected.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • Wrong focus. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cpearson (809811)
    Shouldn't we focus of give everychild in the UNITED STATES/EU a laptop BEFORE we give a massive amount of funds that will be stolen by warlords. Billings, Montana [billingsbulletin.com]
    • Shouldn't we focus of give everychild in the UNITED STATES/EU a laptop BEFORE we give a massive amount of funds that will be stolen by warlords?

      Okay, then, go to it. No one is stopping you. Give everyone a laptop.

      Negroponte figured a way to do it for nearly free. I'm interested in how you are going to pull it off.

      Seriously, if you don't like what he's doing, go and do what you think needs to be done yourself.

    • Re:Wrong focus. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Timothy Chu (2263)
      I can't help but cringe at this attitude. Our world is getting smaller and smaller each day. With connectivity to the farthest reaches of our planet at our fingertips, just about everybody is our neighbour. We chat to our friends in other timezones more often than we talk to the guy who lives next door. With this in mind, what makes your geograpically proximate citizens in the USA or EU any more deserving of the technology than those who weren't priviledged to have been born to the right country?
  • by tktk (540564) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:02PM (#14571660)
    The $100 laptop is being sold at cost right? I'm sure there are geeks out there who would be willing to pay $200 or more for something like this to hack.
  • by MikeURL (890801) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:02PM (#14571661) Journal
    This is one of those projects that people will either laugh at in 10 years or look back on with awe and respect. It could really go either way. On the one hand it could just be that these children are simply not ready and these laptops will be sold where possible for food and other things. However, it is also possible that this project sparks the dormant imagination of kids trapped in poverty and sets them free.

    A CRITICAL piece of this is whether they will also roll out free wifi access to the internet. Without that I'll go ahead and predict dismal failure right now. The only way this could become a world changing phenomenon if if they also come with free internet access.
    • I think the only thing of value that will come out of this project is the notion that the USD 100 price point breaks a psychological barrier which makes people think "wow, that's cheap -- we could give one to ANYONE!"

      Otherwise, I just don't see how these people who know nothing about manufacturing and operations can just waltz in and accomplish what a 100 billion a year industry can't. Everyone in the industry is ALREADY focused on making laptops as cheap and plentiful as possible. If they do eventually g

      • No one in the industry is attempting quite the same thing at all. What the MIT project is attempting to do is to create new technology that compromises between performance and cost. In order to drive cost down, significant computing performance is lost.

        I bet you were imagining $100 laptops that were exactly the same as the laptops we have now. That's what I get from your statement "Everyone in the industry is ALREADY focused on making laptops as cheap and plentiful as possible". That is quite wrong. Th
        • Isn't this project a natural fit for Plan 9 [bell-labs.com]?
        • Just try to find me a laptop that is powered by D cells and a handcrank. Or a laptop without a hard drive. Or a laptop with a screen that switches between color and monochromatic.

          The D cell and handcrank thing is probably going to get dropped, and is very likely useless. Anyone without access to electricity probably isn't thinking about laptops. Electricity is more plentiful than people realize. Just take a look at this comment [slashdot.org]. Like the guy says, these are not going to be used by people in jungles. They

          • Actually, Negroponte and the people behind this project *are* developing technologies for this. Or, at least, paying other people specifically to do so. My former company (made up of a number of people who knew Negroponte from the MIT Media Lab) was involved in some of this work. I'm not 100% sure whether the development was successful in producing a workable solution, but there's a lot more going on than just taking parts of a shelf and assembling them.

            If people in the laptop industry aren't interested
        • Just try to find me a laptop that is powered by D cells and a handcrank. Or a laptop without a hard drive. Or a laptop with a screen that switches between color and monochromatic.

          The Apple eMate meets most of the requirements you are talking about. There was even a hand crank for the eMate that I seem to recall reading about on Slashdot.
    • A CRITICAL piece of this is whether they will also roll out free wifi access to the internet. Without that I'll go ahead and predict dismal failure right now. The only way this could become a world changing phenomenon if if they also come with free internet access.

      Even better: the plan is for them to become nodes of a wireless mesh network.

      The first countries to have more cellphones than landlines were African. I don't for a second doubt that wireless is going to be the cheapest way to deliver internet conn

  • Make Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] or another Dictionary the default home page and then people can immediately start searching and learning about the world.
  • by Oldsmobile (930596) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:09PM (#14571760) Journal
    I think one reason people on Slashdot have such a pessimistic view of the $100 laptop, is the images that have been conjured up by Negroponte and co. Mostly extremely poor children living in some jungle village somewhere.

    In reality, these laptops would probably be used by the urban poor and working class or those in well developed rural areas in rapidly developing countries. I have been to Fujian porvince in China, stood in a rice field and then used the internet, in a small village composed of mostly really old windowless stone buildings.

    Urban infrastructure was near enough to provide internet and electricity to those who could afford it, but even so, people were very poor. This is the kind of setting I can easily see the laptop coming to its own. Those people were poor enough so as not to be able to afford good educational material, but can sustain themselves and would not benefit from food or whatever Slashdotters are offering instead of laptops.

    I think those pessimistic views reflect an inherent ignorance about the world. The media often paints a rather bleak picture of the rest of the world, whereas most people get along fine, though could always use a little help.
    • Completely Agree (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mistergin.net (697847)
      The UN is more than aware of the poverty situations in these developing countries and I can't imagine that those in charge of this operation would send a $100 laptop to someone who'd just as soon eat the motherboard for SOME sort of sustinance(sp?)... For those kids that only know of a life where they manually slave all day to earn the meager earnings that keep their crappy hut up, completely oblivious to the climate (socially, politically, etc.) around them, they're doomed to repeat history. Also, give a
  • Give a man a fish, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qualico (731143) <worldcouchsurfer ... m minus math_god> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:12PM (#14571806) Journal
    The project: http://laptop.media.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

    It might seem a bad idea to offer laptops over water, food and shelter, especially to governments/organizations, who in the past have held donations at ransom or misappropriated funds.

    However, one can only hope, there are some smarter distribution plans this time.
    As to the value;

    Give a man a fish and feed him for a day...
    Teach a man how to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.

    Best to think of the project in these terms, no?
    • This is actually a brilliant and cheap thing to distribute.

      These things are made out of plastic and silicon some of the cheapest materials we have.

      They are largely built by machinery and mass produced.

      They are mainly based on old technology so they don't require a lot of research.

      Basically these are some of the most useful and cheap things they can be distributing.
  • Good Question... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hzs202 (932886)
    What OS is going to be on these $100.00 laptops?
    • Re:Good Question... (Score:2, Informative)

      by nullbort (944876)
      Linux [mit.edu]
    • With all the criticism it's drawing, what other system could it POSSIBLY run except Linux? Now if it was Bill Gates again plugging ten Windows boxes into a ghetto to brainwash another generation of userslaves into the Windows way, everybody in here would be throwing ticker-tape parades about it.
  • ...was not food and not freedom... the key was education and information.
    Giving people food fixes the problem for a short time, they will be hungry again in a week, giving them tools nessesary for groving their own food fixes the problem permanently. Starting with the children is a very smart move, they learn quicker and do not have the limitations (and bad habits) their parents has learned from their parents...
    I do however still not understand why mr. Negroponte don't want to sell these laptops on the free
  • They won't even *sell* them. They'll only give laptops to institutions in the developing world.

    But me, and many others want one. The end result is that because of artificial scarcity the market value of the laptop will be well above $100, and there'll be a strong incentive for whoever is a school-admin in those countries, to sell those things. Not a good thing.

    Why not just sell them in quantities of 1000 to whoever pays the price, so all of us Geode/Linux fans can get one?

    *pfft, stupid non-capitalists*
    • Yes, they will. The commercial version should be around $225 and the proceed will help subsidize the $100 units. The initial units will be earmarked for the subsidized version, so the commercial version won't be out immediately.
      • And this too will create a great incentive for poor countries to sell their laptops above buying price. And of course the very high price will incent me to just build my own Turion desktop machine instead of buying one.

        So far I read about prices up to $150 or $180 to subsidize the poorer countries, but when I have to pay a premium of about $125, it simply makes me angry.

        It seems like these people care much more about being gooder-than-thou (as if laptops were the top thing needed in poor countries; they mi
  • I'm not surprised (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ChrisGilliard (913445)
    That the U.N. would support a socialist program for handing out laptops that were designed by a university professor. I'm not saying that the proponents of this idea do not have their hearts in the right place, but lets be honest, it is what it is. Maybe this time it will work. I hope the program is successful, I'm just a little skeptical about these kind of largescale government sponsored give aways. This was tried in the Soviet Union for years and years. What happens? Well, the average Soviet spent more t
  • by That's Unpossible! (722232) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:42PM (#14572232)
    I am not going to take a position yet on how well these laptops are going to work out. However, the fact that they are now going to be distributed by governments, paid for with government funds, means that market economics and reality will get shoved aside for politics... this is never a good thing. Especially with the track record of the UN and corruption.

    Secondly, I really take offense with the notion that "the UN" is backing the laptop. The UN is primarily funded by the USA. They take up a sizeable portion of valuable real estate on US land. And the US government gets funded by "non-voluntary contributions" from US citizens. Therefore, the title should read, US Citizens Backing the $100 Laptop (Involuntarily). The distinction is important. It's very easy to spend other people's money on ideas which may not be the best use of the funds.

    (Sorry, just got done spending about 3 days working on my taxes, sending uncle sam and arnie $20,000 of my hard earned, so they can put about 1% of it to good use, and blow the rest on politics and vote-buying.)
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:42PM (#14572233)
    This project has a chance to work and I believe it will. In many instances where limited technology resources have been introduced into 3rd-world countries for the commone people, they have always risen to the challenge of accepting and integrating it. (Eg. cell phone ladies in India). If you think all these people can handle or need or want is another dosage of food, you are grossly underestimating them. They are just like any other people in the world. We want our food and our internet, and *most* of us want to learn with an open mind. So do they. Just because many of them are malnourished or in poverty does not mean they will not appreciate a chance to educate themselves.

    If someone wants to use their talents to make this happen, I applaud it. One cannot dictate to other the form of charity they wish to participate in. There are many dedicated to feeding the malnourished. There are others who work towards better treatment of disease and preventing the spread thereof. Perhaps there are those who think passing out crackers is a higher priority than passing out condoms, but there are valid arguments for both. Only by taking a big picture approach can the third world nations be granted the tools to bring themselves out of poverty. This laptop program is a commendable step in the right direction, and only one of many neccessary.

  • windows key? (Score:2, Informative)

    by madnuke (948229)
    On the laptop keyboard there is a windows key perhaps MIT have switched to the dark side!
  • Inevitably there will be operations in place in which some company goes in and offers to trade laptops for something they really want (such as... I don't know, food, maybe?) and then sells the $100 laptops back to customers in nations that can afford computers.

    I'm looking forward to picking up one of these cheapie laptops in a year or two, even if it ends up costing $200.
  • Seems like starving third world children will benefit the least from the technology. They need food not laptops. If they are living on $300 a year as some do that's four months of food money. If they can sell the laptops they will and in fact should. If they can't sell them they get to stare at what amounts to an expensive toy while they starve. The third world coutries lack infastructures to take advantage of large numbers of computer literate kids. If they idea is big companies will take advantage of the
  • by guard952 (768434) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @04:07PM (#14572560)
    Seriously, sell these $100 laptops over here for $200. Every laptop purchased also buys one for a poor child on the other side of the economy scale. I'm sure $200 is about right for the "my first computer" age group. Or those who want a cheap lappy for email or aspiring authors. Also sell a solar panel as an accessory and all the greenies would go for it too!
  • Lets not be cynical (Score:3, Informative)

    by tobby (229444) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @04:49PM (#14573060)
    The poverty argument is akin to saying because there are poor people in the world we should disband NASA. Clearly economics is not a strongpoint with some posters. This is a fantastic, positive and inspiring initiative by Nicholas Negroponte and its disheartening to see so much cynisism on slashdot. One would think slashdotters would be at the forefront championing the cause.

    Instead we have shortsighted speculation about its uses betraying an unbelievable ignorance of our own experience with technology. You can bet recipients will find creative and innovative ways to enrich and improve their lives.

    The only problem will be distribution and ensuring the laptops ends up in the hands on the intended recepients which is a perennial problem in developing countries. And if there is demand for these laptops in first world as has already been displayed in some of the posts you can bet an active blackmarket will thrive to divert them back to the first world.
  • by akhomerun (893103)
    why not sell this idea to the general public? All I want is a laptop that is compact and can get online and do word processing and genral apps at a decent speed. But I don't want to spend $600 just to get a basic laptop. Why not sell the general public a version of this for $200 as an basic laptop or one for K-12 students (a starter laptop of sorts).

    I'm sure today's $100-200 technology can beat my Pentium II Compaq Armada 7400. I just want a laptop that can word process like a champ, and my PII won't cu
  • Can I get a bulk discount for a Beowulf cluster of these laptops? I'm thinking of looking on EBay.
  • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:33PM (#14573575)
    Oooooo....a $100 laptop!!! Big deal. Here is everything you need to put together a perfectly capable $100 laptop today.

    Battary Powered Monitor (Item# E21591) = $33.12 [qvc.com]
    6v Battary powerd Computer that has a HUGE library of educational/business/entertainment software = $24.99 [amazon.com]
    Hand crank generator for charging the battaries = $39.95 [dynaco.com]
    Total = $98.06

    Now if I can find all of the components to put together a $100 laptop in 15 minutes, I'm sure someone smarter than me could do it better. This is $100 with a huge amount of waste. Extra light, built in radio, siren, and compass. Not to mention the cost that was added for retail profit, and the cost of putting together three seperate packages.

    Some may whine that 'It's only an 8-bit computer' or 'It's already outdated'. Well, the $100 laptops that are being proposed are propriotary machines that are also very outdated today. With a C-64 based laptop, at least the end users would have access to actual software. I think these people would be perfectly happy having the standard of living we had in the 80's, and that is what the C-64 would bring.

    What this tells me is that there are some people out there that are going to try to make a lot of money by asking for dontation that are way out of line for what they are providing.
    • Don't forget a keyboard and networking, and I doubt a little black-and-white CRT would be as legible and energy-efficient as the B&W mode of this laptop's display. Also, cludging those parts together would probably result in something a little less than portable...
    • The HDL has to have extremely low power consumption (to enable, among other things, a human-power source). That excludes the baby CRTs this poster found.

      It is also extremely, dangerously wrong to assert that this will be proprietary. The design is wedded to open source designs; the demo units are running a commercial (redhat) Linux distro. This is less, it is not at all, a way of bashing this vendor or that. Rather, the idea is this. Imagine the outcome of million laptops. Many, frankly, perhaps even most,
  • Are that price now.. For those that dont want to wait, or wil be descrimiated against ( ie, middle class US citizens ).
  • let's see. tons of places in the world with no electricity. And no food. WHY DON'T WE GET THEM SOME DAMN FOOD FIRST?!
  • Microsoft donates two computers to senior citizens [fbcdc.com]

    Slashdot reaction: "God bless Bill Gates! He is truly a philanthropist for our time!"

    Microsoft donates eight computers to Botswana [www.gov.bw]

    Slashdot reaction: "I'm going to petition the Pope to canonize Bill Gates as a Saint!!"

    Microsoft donates ten computers to citizens of Philadelphia [camcobra.com]

    Slashdot reaction: "I take it back! He's not just a Saint, he's an ANGEL SENT DOWN FROM HEAVEN!!! All I want to know is where's the line so I can get in it to kneal and KISS BI

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