The $100 laptop
Ah, the ever-recurring techno-myth: a dirt-cheap educational contraption to revolutionize third world children’s education. I can’t even remember when I heard about it first. I was thrilled though, enthused. But then with the undelivering years went my excitement. For one thing, the deployment plan is based almost entirely on governments, which is a nonstarter. More importantly, there might be better options. Cellphones are already a phenomenal worldwide success, even in the poorest countries, and that’s because they’re tangibly, immediately useful. A recent Economist article, Splitting the Digital Divide, mentions other less obvious but intriguing options.
And yet, reading yesterday’s New York Times article, For $150, Third-World Laptop Stirs Big Debate (yup, there’s been some price adjustment), made me think again of the amazing possibilities that can unfold from a personal mobile computer in the hands of a child. Blame it on Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age AM with its amazing book-machine, the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer — every self-learner’s wet dream.
At any rate, it seems to me that (save actual existence and deployment) the crucial factor for success will be software and so, for what it’s worth, here’s a promise: If and when Negroponte’s brainchild ever sees daylight, I shall stop whatever I’m doing, for three months, to develop mindblowing educational software for it. There, I said it.