by Al Sacco

Negroponte: Wealthy Nations May Buy OLPC ‘$100 Laptops’ for Others

Dec 06, 20062 mins
Computers and PeripheralsIT Leadership

child coder boy with computer gaming children laptop
Credit: mikkelwilliam / Getty Images

Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and chairman of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative—which aims to build durable, low-cost laptops for use by children in developing nations—recently said he is in talks with a number of wealthy nations regarding program funding for countries in need, reports.

Negroponte spoke in an interview at the International Telecom Union’s (ITU) Telecom World 2006 exhibition and conference in Hong Kong, BusinessWeek reports. Telecom World runs through Friday, Dec. 8.

The OLPC chairman said he is in talks with Finland regarding possible financing for laptops for use in Namibia; with the United Arab Emirates about funding for laptops to be used in parts of Pakistan; and with France, which may provide funding for OLPC machines for a number of French-speaking African nations, BusinessWeek reports. He also said he is in discussions with a number of nations including Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines, as well as eight central American countries that are looking to participate in the program as a collective, according to BusinessWeek.

OLPC has been blasted by many critics and pundits for its machines’ lack of features—including by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates but Negroponte stressed that the device is not meant to be a top-of-the-line tool; rather, it’s meant to be a stepping stone in the educational process for children who cannot afford to purchase a PC, BusinessWeek reports.

“It’s an education project, not a laptop project,” Negroponte said in the interview, according to BusinessWeek. “For people, it’s like the hazard of being a beautiful blonde—people pay attention to the wrong thing. It’s almost an attractive nuisance. We were driven by the elimination of poverty. With building more schools, it would take forever and ever. What we’re trying to do in the meantime is get more children to do more on their own.”

Originally called the $100 Laptop program, the project’s name was later modified because the machines it plans to produce will likely initially cost more than $100. OLPC hopes to eventually decrease the price of the machines to closer to $100 as orders for the laptops pick up and associated production costs drop. 

In related news, Brazil recently received its firs 10 OLPC laptops.