One Laptop Per Child

posted 24 September 2007, updated 24 September 2007

There has been much publicity surrounding the so-called $100 laptop (often centering around the fact that it actually costs $188). But now the OLPC foundation has started full-scale production, and you can buy one -- either as a pair, one for you and one for a child (starting 12th November), or you can just buy one for a child in a developing nation right now.

This is an idea that seemed great from the get-go. In countries where teachers are scarce and traditional reading materials -- even pens and paper -- are a struggle to come by, a laptop -- powered by a pedal-cycle, a hand-crank or mains power where available -- solves these problems. Even just on its own, it is a learning resource of reading and writing and drawing. But thanks to a clever mesh networking system, if you manage to plug even one of them into a modem or wireless network somehow, they can all get onto the network.

Think about that. From a village in rural Cambodia, suddenly you're plugged into the whole Internet. Who needs teachers? Even if the only website you ever touch is Wikipedia, you've got more information at your fingertips than you could absorb in a lifetime. Sure, trivia, misinformation and unsavoury content abound. But in the hands of a curious child, the answer to every question is there as well. Why is the sky blue? And why is grass green? What is the Copernican theory of the solar system? Who was Copernicus anyway? Was he inspired by Plato? And you don't just have to read; you can ask questions and real people will respond to you, instantly, from everywhere in the world. It's the whole world in a magical green box.

And now I have read the reviews and checked the specs and heard blow-by-blow reports from actual children about this laptop, how it works and what it feels like. And this feels like the real deal. They've got the design right, it works, they're building them and they're already giving them away. All you have to do is buy one for a child today. Can you think of anything better to spend $200 on than giving a child the whole world in a box?