The One Laptop per Child initiative launched by MIT plans to provide laptops to children in developing countries in partnership with governments and other organizations at a cost of $100 per laptop. These laptops run Red Hat’s Fedora Linux distribution and are currently in the development stage.
This week Bill Gates had the following comments about this initiative:
“The last thing you want to do for a shared use computer is have it be something without a disk … and with a tiny little screen.”
“If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing while you’re trying to type,” (Reuters).
I have a number of issues with these comments. First, these systems were never intended to be shared computers; the goal is to provide each child with a computer. Second, the target markets for these computers are developing nations and other areas where computer usage is not widespread. In general, areas like rural Africa and other locations cannot be expected to have broadband connections to every village (I have not even been able to get broadband for my parents who live in rural Ohio).
I am really just not sure what Gates was thinking when he made these comments. This is an ambitious project designed to get computers into the hands of children who otherwise would not have access to this technology. This effort should be applauded, not ridiculed.