After 5 years of planing and development the “$100 Laptop” is finally making its way out into the real world! One of the first countries where the XO, as it is also know, was tested, was Nigeria. At this early developmental stage producers wanted to see if the small laptop could really withstand hard use by children. Teachers in the small village are sure that the laptops are helping improve children’s learning experience, and that this learning is extending back home to the children’s parents. Unfortunately it has not all been perfect. Some of the laptop have eventually broken, and there is little support for maintenance. Accessing the internet has also been found to be prohibitively expensive in many instances.

Sadly there has also been open disregard to this initiative. The education minister of Nigeria Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachuku is quoted by the BBC as saying, “What is the sense of introducing One Laptop Per Child when they don’t have seats to sit down and learn; when they don’t have uniforms to go to school in, where they don’t have facilities?” I would argue that uniforms are less of a need to learn than a laptop which can connect you to the world, and as for adequate learning environments; it would be great if all children had nice, well stocked classrooms, but educational advances should not be obstructed because other aspects of education are still lacking. Different initiatives can work on different aspects of this problem and we can only hope that some day children all around the world will receive everything they need to obtain a great education.

This project is so simple, yet so powerful and its sad to see so many people criticizing it and fighting against it, specially when they offer little in alternatives. Access to a good education is an issues even in first world countries such as the USA. Here there are plenty of children is poor neighborhoods and rural areas who attend schools with pitiful infrastructures and resources. Being this the case, why not give kids the tools to take charge of their own education? I’m not naive enough to think that a kid with a laptop will only be doing homework, but I do believe that as they explore the web, and use the different tools preloaded into these machines they will gradually explore the world as learn as they go. Today every single employment field requires knowledge of at least some technology and awareness of the world. The XO can provide this to millions of children around the world.

There are only a few days left, but if you want to help support this great project you can participate in the “Give One, Get One” program that will be running until Dec. 31, 2007.

Here are a number of BBC articles on the subject from Nov 27, Nov 28, Dec 6, and Dec. 11.

01.05.08 – Today the BBC reports that Intel has left the OLPC project. Intel has cited philosophical differences for leaving the project. Apparently OLPC asked Intel to exclusively support their project, instead of backing other projects such as the Classmate PC. On a positive note, the same article notes that the “Give One, Get One” initiative has managed to raise awareness and funds for this projects, allowing them to launch initiatives in Afghanistan, Mongolia, Haiti, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.

Image from Cnet.