17 November 2005


The prototype of a $100 (£75) wind up lap top was shown off at the UN IT summit in Tunisia yesterday*, a nice feel good story to distract us all from the potential row about who regulates/"owns" the internet.

The lap top has been designed with the world's poorest children in mind. It will "let children interact with each other while learning." Very laudable however on a list of priorities for expenditure it must be towards the bottom.

When whole swathes of the poor do not have access to running clean water, enough food, adequate sanitation, healthcare let alone education to teach the children to read, a skill required to make these machines useful. Which family is going to spend money on these lap tops? What use are they to communities who are not able to meet the most basic needs except as something to barter for food. What about internet access? The software licenses? Who will pay for those, who will ensure the educational material will be available on line in the local languages.

Don't get me wrong I think that they are a nifty idea but I do not believe that they will directly help the very poorest in the world (and I have doubts about indirectly as well). If they ever go into full scale production the machines will probably end up being used in the schools and universities across the developing world and as toys for us in the first world.

*will insert a link when I get home for some reason the system at work doesn't like blogger very much, I will also spell check! Mind you could turn this into a form of interaction with the bloggisphere. If anyone spots a spelling mistake they could tell me. British spelling only please.


  1. (sorry for the intrusion...)

    I agree entirely. I always wondered about why we should be sending IT technicians to bridge the 'digital divide' in Africa when there is still rampant war, disease and starvation there.

    Having said that, if they use low power chips as designed by a certain Cambridge company which employs, erm, people, and um, goes towards said employees' bonus, then I am all for it.

    As for licencing, why presume that it will be some restrictive closed license? sudo apt-get install debian...

  2. I was suprised by the absence of Trevor Bayliss in all the coverage this is getting. I'm not sure how much he's had to do with it, if anything, but they normally wheel him out whenever anything wind-up is put on TV.

  3. becky, you having a laugh? on the wind-up?? (sorry)

    spelling wise "laptop" and "online" are one word, not two.

    post wise I have to agree and wonder about the priorities here. Another excuse for a company to make money on the back of the poor and starving. Lovely.

  4. Hi Stray Toaster intrude away.

    I really do think that they are a nifty idea but I do wish that people would stop promoting technology as the solution to everything. And even though I have a computer at home at work etc, really I don't need one and we managed fine for centuries to educate people without using computers it can still be done today.

    Becky - Yeah I wondered where he was as well. Now the wind up radio was a useful invention.

    Gordon - Welcome and thanks for the spelling corrections. :-)

  5. It is cute though...

    Steve Jobs tried to get Apple's teeth into the project by providing a free copy of OSX for each laptop, but the group declined stating that they wanted only Open Source software on the machine.

    But, it appears Bill Gates will win after all is said and done... They are now saying it will run any OS, "including Windows".