Note, January 31 2006: See this update on the process re Microsoft's attempt to get in on it.
This is absolutely fantastic.
I don't usually do "this is cool! go here!" posts but this is really important.
This is what the story is about. Everyone talks about the digital divide but nobody does anything about it, to paraphrase Twain. Well, MIT and others are doing something about it. MIT has unveiled its $100 hand-cranked laptop computer to the United Nations technology summit in Tunisia. It's hoping to make a bunch more, for the poorest people in the world.
It's running Linux, of course, and I can only assume OpenOffice.org and something like Firefox are also loaded.
The machines are bright green, which is fun, and have wireless. Plus there's some kind of mesh network for peer to peer, and they crank so you can somehow generate electricity. Kind of like the mythical tv-electricity-generating exercise bike that I think somebody should invent.
Kofi Annan is all about it. When Kofi weighs in, that's important. "It is an impressive technical achievement, able to do almost everything that larger, more expensive computers can do. It holds the promise of major advances in economic and social development. But perhaps most important is the true meaning of 'one laptop per child'. This is not just a matter of giving a laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within - within each child, within each scientist-, scholar-, or just plain citizen-in-the-making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day".
The goal is to provide the machines free of charge to children in poor countries who cannot afford computers of their own.
Governments or anyone who wants to donate will pay for them; children will own them.
Here's a question--will Bill Gates get involved in this, since he's allll about charitable donations in third world countries? I'm thinking, look for some sort of response out of the northwest.
Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria are on the list to receive the first chunk of laptops.
The computers operate at 500 MHz, but since it's running Linux that's not the problem it would be with Windows.
The screen is from a portable DVD player and you can use B/W or color.
It's slated to be ready in a year or a bit more, when people have ordered and paid for 5-10 million computers.
This is going to have a huge effect on society, possibly politics, very likely women's rights--it's going to be huge.