Monday, January 21, 2008

One Laptop Per Child: A Dream of Equality of Opportunity

The second part of the post title comes from a Martin Luther King Jr. quotation.  MLK fought for a more equal world.  But that is hardly possible if some are in the 21st century dominated by information technology, and some are trapped in an earlier era.  How can children in the third world even begin to bridge that gap? Enter One Laptop Per Child.

The laptops are designed to be 
  • extremely inexpensive ($200)
  • durable (e.g., sealed rubber keyboard)
  • easy to power (e.g., can use sunlight to view screen)
  • easy to use (simple apps, open source software) 
  • easy to network (rabbit antennas—see below)
Until the end of 2007, it was possible to "buy one--give one", so that $400 purchased one for you, one for a child in the third world.  There are still options to donate a laptop for $200—this is what I chose to do.  (I suppose I should mention there has been a dispute between OLPC organization and Intel.  This is unfortunate, but of secondary concern.) 

Let me just focus on one feature of the laptop that really impressed me.  It has two rabbit antennas.  One is for connecting to WiFi, and thus the rest of the world.  The second allows the laptops to communicate with each other.  If one laptop is in range of WiFi, they all are.  There is file sharing software so they can work on a document together.  MLK would have been pleased.

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