Category Archives: kofi_annan

hundred dollar laptops may make good table lamps

UN laptop.jpg “Demo or die.” That was the creed of the MIT Media Lab in the glory days — days of ferment that produced important, foundational work in interactive media. Well, yesterday at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia, where Nicholas Negroponte and Kofi Annan were unveiling the prototype of the 100 dollar laptop, the demo died. Or rather, the demo just didn’t happen.
As it turns out, Negroponte wasn’t able to get past the screen lock on the slick lime-green device, so the mob of assembled journalists and technofiles had to accept the 100 dollar gospel on faith, making do with touching anecdotes about destitute families huddled in wonder around their child’s new laptop, the brightest source of light in their tiny hovel. All told, an inauspicious beginning for the One Laptop Per Child intitiative, which aims to put millions of cheap, robust, free-software-chugging computers into the hands of the world’s poorest children.
Sorry to be so snide, but we were watching the live webcast from Tunis yesterday… it’s hard not to laugh at the leaders of the free world bumbling over this day-glo gadget, this glorified Trapper Keeper cum jack-in-the-box (Annan ended up breaking the hand crank), with barely a word devoted to what educational content will actually go inside, or to how teachers plan to construct lessons around these new toys. In the end, it’s going to come down to them. Good teachers, who know computers, may be able to put the laptops to good use. But somehow I’m getting visions of stacks of unused or busted laptops, cast aside like so many neon bricks.
A sunnier future for the 100 dollar laptop? A commercial company obtains the rights and starts selling them in the West for $250 a pop. They’re a huge hit. Everyone just has to have one to satisfy their poor inner child.