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The $100 Laptop. What Went Wrong?

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link: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Inves...llarLaptop.aspx

by: John C. Dvorak for MarketWatch

date: 11/16/2006 4:04 PM ET

Over the past few years, various initiatives have been proposed to equip Third World countries -- especially those in Africa -- with cheap computers. Believers in the concept that computers will solve all the world's ills are behind much of this.

 

So Africa, South Asia and other targeted regions of the world find themselves the focus of all sorts of initiatives to provide hand-me-down, special purpose and even junked computers.

 

Then along comes the latest scheme to actually provide a unique hand-cranked laptop utilizing a small generator to power the thing.

 

The idea was developed by the charming Nicolas Negroponte, former head of the MIT Media Lab and organizer of One Laptop Per Child, an initiative to produce a $100 laptop and distribute it to the poorest children in the world.

 

Negroponte, who was unavailable to comment for this column, knows how to draw attention to things, and this one has received a double portion.

Slick looks, but high prices

That said, actual machines have been designed, and they look pretty slick. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that the manufacturing cost of these machines has come anywhere close to $100. Nobody actually wants to discuss that aspect yet.

 

It's also iffy whether these machines are going to do anyone any good. In fact the entire idea may be misguided and counterproductive. At least that's what Stanford journalism lecturer and Africa watcher G. Pascal Zachary thinks.

 

Besides incredible difficulties with the distribution networks in Africa, Zachary wonders who will maintain these machines. Generally speaking, a societal infrastructure with a lot of computers needs a lot of support mechanisms.

 

"And in today's world the real value of a computer is it being networked," says Zachary. "Finding a network in the poor areas is either impossible or very expensive."

 

Electricity first, laptops second?

But I myself have moaned about the details of this One Laptop Per Child scheme as folly or idealistic. The basic argument is that with $100 you could almost feed a village for a year, so why waste that sum on a laptop? What are they thinking?

 

But Zachary has a more profound point: "The fact that these people need electricity more than they need a laptop is only part of the problem," he says. "The real problem is lost mind share. The people are harmed because these sorts of schemes are sopping up mind-share time of the people who might be doing something actually useful."

 

To summarize, there are only so many hours in the day, and we should not be wasting them on this kind of na

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well with food they are not going to progress in life.

 

in my opinion why live if you arent going to do something useful.

 

i rather be dead than suffering.

Edited by Enyce2k9

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:withstupid: The idea behind the $100 laptop was to educate people in 3rd world countries/areas so that they can grow.

 

Although I do agree that food and electricity should be an EQUAL concern as getting those people educated.

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:withstupid: The idea behind the $100 laptop was to educate people in 3rd world countries/areas so that they can grow.

 

Although I do agree that food and electricity should be an EQUAL concern as getting those people educated.

 

:withstupid: and this quote comes to mind "give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, he eats for life"

 

EDIT: IMO, I'd focus on help to a certain extent, but aid<education. and having an actual laptop helps A LOT. I wouldn't be where I'm at today if it wasn't for that crap pII Acer w/16 megs of ram to play with :lol:

Edited by The Unforgivin

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The title of the article seems a little presumptuous given the stage they are with the project.

There are some valid points made, but I'm not sure I agree with all of them.

 

Anyway.. the OLPC Wiki is something I will be keeping an eye on from time to time.

Edited by jammin

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I don't see the point in giving them a laptop if they're going to starve to death. Why not take that money and spend it on really educating them. I just don't believe a computer is the solution to all the problems out there.

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I don't see the point in giving them a laptop if they're going to starve to death. Why not take that money and spend it on really educating them. I just don't believe a computer is the solution to all the problems out there.

:withstupid: I agree with you 100%.

 

If you want to educate people, get them a teacher. These people are poor because there is not infrastructure where they live. There aren't alot of places to work. If we want to help them, they need an infrastructure in place, and a local economy, where they can work, and get paid for their services.

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well the laptop could be bundled with educational programs.

 

with the way things are looking teachers don't have to be actual humans.

 

edit: my comment is from a budget perspective, otherwise then actual schools will obviously be the best solution.

Edited by Enyce2k9

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well with food they are not going to progress in life.

 

in my opinion why live if you arent going to do something useful.

 

i rather be dead than suffering.

Ok, I'll take away all your food and money, and throw you out in the safari with your laptop. Of course you'll have no problem, because you'll be doing something useful on there, right?

 

I'm sorry but that is among the most ignorant thing I've read on these forums. Do you realize just HOW MUCH $100 is worth to third world countries? Just $50 will pay for brand new clothing, lots of food, cooking equipment, and other essentials of life.

 

THESE PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING JUST TO GAIN THE ESSENTIALS! You need to get that foundation in there by feeding them first, then providing aid, AND THEN EDUCATION! They won't learn if they're sitting around starving or dying of something that just a simple antibiotic wouild cure.

 

Ah, the joys of western culture and the people it produces. I challenge you to join a charity group such as the Christian Children's Fund and sponsor a child. You'll see how much just a little bit of money can help them out with food and education. If we just throw them a laptop when they have no realistic means of utilizing it, it's not going to help them.

 

So, have fun in the safari.

 

EDIT: Let's look at the numbers here. Say we have 50 children in a small community in Honduras. That's $5,000 + transportation costs to equip them all with laptops. That's the life earnings of some people down there. If we put aside $5,000 to send down Red Cross volunteers or the Peace Corps, the results will be much more positive. Just $5,000 of antibiotics and medicine to help with disease would save lives.

 

My family sponsors two brothers in Central America. I challenge you to sponsor a child to help them get on their feet. I have no idea where you come to the conclusion that they don't need to be given aid before education, unless you're assuming that things are just rather jolly in developing countries.*

 

*HINT: They're not.

Edited by Kamikaze_Badger

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And you think there aren't already plenty of organisations and governments not already trying (or in some cases, not trying) to provide all of the essential things these people need?

 

I believe that when it comes to the third world, nothing is that simple.

You can look at any program or investment and say that the money shouldn't be wasted and spent on something else, but without considerable knowledge of all the factors it is hard to really asses what should (or could) be done.

 

I'm not about to claim to know what the best way of helping all of these people is because if we really knew and were prepared to actually follow through on it, then the problem wouldn't still be there.

 

I'm just glad effort is being made at all and personally hope the project has some kind of positive effect.

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Well said KB. :withstupid:

 

I just don't believe a computer is the solution to all the problems out there.

Unless, of course, they've developed a sudden taste for batteries and LCDs.

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And you think there aren't already plenty of organisations and governments not already trying (or in some cases, not trying) to provide all of the essential things these people need?

 

I believe that when it comes to the third world, nothing is that simple.

You can look at any program or investment and say that the money shouldn't be wasted and spent on something else, but without considerable knowledge of all the factors it is hard to really asses what should (or could) be done.

 

I'm not about to claim to know what the best way of helping all of these people is because if we really knew and were prepared to actually follow through on it, then the problem wouldn't still be there.

 

I'm just glad effort is being made at all and personally hope the project has some kind of positive effect.

There are plenty, I know that. It was the comment on aid being less important than "education," which in this case needs a better foundation, that set me off.

 

You're right about nothing being simple when dealing with 3rd world countries. If it were, we wouldn't have such a huge problem with them. However, based on the knowledge I have of the subject, I personally believe that the current goal of the OLPC Project is a little out of touch with what could be done to more effect. I am by no means an expert on this, but I believe that putting more money into providing for food and medical care first and establishing that kind of foundation should be of higher importance.

 

And writing this, I realize that there are organizations trying to do just that, and that it'll be wise to have this ready for education as soon as it's possible. However, we need to learn to not focus on just one thing. I agree with you jammin, I mainly disagree with the condescending attitude in some of the posts here.

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