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Low-cost laptop project for poor children closer to reality, says UN advocate

Low-cost laptop project for poor children closer to reality, says UN advocate

The ‘One Laptop per Child’ initiative, a pioneering project to give children in poor countries access to affordable computers, is in sight of becoming a reality, the United Nations advocate for the world’s most vulnerable nations said today.

After watching a special demonstration of the so-called $100 laptop at UN Headquarters in New York, Under-Secretary-General Cheikh Sidi Diarra praised the scheme’s organizers for their efforts to bring the project to fruition given the sceptical response it met with at first.

The project is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, who is on leave from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to head the ‘One Laptop per Child’ initiative.

The laptops produced will: have a sunlight-readable display so they can be outside; contain no moving parts; be powered by solar, foot-pump or pull-string powered chargers; and be housed in a waterproof case.

Some developing nations have not followed their verbal agreements with concrete orders, so Professor Negroponte has launched a “give one, get one” scheme that will allow individuals to buy two laptops at a pre-determined price and have one of the laptops sent a child in the developing world.

Mr. Diarra, who is the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that while many challenges remained before the project’s vision could be realized, it was clear it could make a major contribution to the socio-economic development of the world’s poorest nations.

He also said it was important for Professor Negroponte and his partners to understand any concerns and questions the Member States may have about the initiative, such as affordability.

“Even if the cost was only $100 per child, that is more than most developing countries, especially the least developed countries, can afford,” he said. “In many LDCs, for example, the amount spent on a child’s education in primary school is as low as $5 a year when teachers’ salaries are excluded.”