In developing countries it could? I’ve been hearing about this project for the past 3-4 months on my favorite technology podcast Buzz Out Loud. It’s an initiative by the One Laptop Per Child organization to get laptops into the hands of children in developing countries. They’re inexpensive laptops that are rugged and durable. They have no moving parts (1 GB flash memory) a high resolution screen, peer to peer networking and I think a video cam. The idea is to get as many of these into the hands of kids. Right now this organization is offering a unique deal. for $399, you can get one for yourself and one for a child in a developing country will get one. Sure, you could get a pretty cool PC laptop for just a little more money, but I ask you… can you power that laptop with a foot pump?
Oh, and I just saw this on their main site. If you buy one of these laptops, T-Mobile will give you free WiFi access for a year. That alone is almost $350 a year and you can use any laptop or mobile device to take advantage of this. That’s internet at Starbucks folks!
Why is this a good idea? I remember my economics professor in college talking about this very thing (yes I still remember my economics lectures… he was very good… and eccentric). Too often in developing countries we send aid in the form of grain, medical supplies and resources like that. The problem with this is that these resources get used and then they need more. However, if we send farming equipment, people to teach them how to develop resources… then they begin to take care of themselves. It’s the principle from the saying, “give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.” (or something like that)
I had heard of similar type of projects done in India where a simple touch screen kiosk was set up in a remote village in India where kids would explore, learn and teach themselves. I don’t have any idea if this is in any way connected, but India is definitely the rising nation of some of the world’s best computer programmers. This initiative probably won’t wipe out starvation or disease, but at least it is a set in the right direction.