A pioneering $100 laptop programme, designed to give children in poor countries access to knowledge and educational tools, came a step closer to realization today with the signing of a partnership agreement in Davos, Switzerland, between the main United Nations development agency and the organization responsible for the initiative.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed at the World Economic Forum by UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Dervis and One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Chairman Nicholas Negroponte, the two organizations will work together to deliver new technology and learning resources to schools in the world's least developed countries (LDCs).
“We are delighted to be part of this venture, which has the potential to break through the digital divide between rich countries and poor countries,” said Mr. Dervis.
“Though the price of access to knowledge has dramatically decreased in recent years, new technologies remain out of reach for most people in developing countries, especially children, who rarely have access to the educational resources that could enhance their opportunities and lift them out of poverty,” he said.
Mr. Negroponte said the project would address the problem. “One laptop per child is key, making learning more seamless with living, play and family life, versus being limited to school,” he said.
The $100 laptop is a sturdy computer which requires very little power and can even be powered by hand cranking. The computers form a 'mesh network,' which means that they can talk to each other and several hundred machines can share a single point of access.
It is expected that the cost of each laptop will come down over time. Manufacturing will begin when at least 5 million machines have been ordered and paid for in advance, and the preliminary target is to have units ready for shipment by early 2007.
“World demand and goodwill for the $100 laptop has been boundless because any head of State realizes that a nation's most precious natural resource is its children,” Mr. Negroponte said.