Heiko Recktenwald on Wed, 11 Oct 2006 12:59:36 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Beyond Oil, Lybia and the MIT


As a little reading help, how fast will it go the way of Bauhaus chairs?



October 11, 2006
U.S. Group Reaches Deal to Provide Laptops to All Libyan Schoolchildren

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 10 ? The government of Libya reached an agreement
on Tuesday with One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit United States group
developing an inexpensive, educational laptop computer, with the goal
of supplying machines to all 1.2 million Libyan schoolchildren by June

The project, which is intended to supply computers broadly to children
in developing nations, was conceived in 2005 by a computer researcher
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nicholas Negroponte. His
goal is to design a wireless-connected laptop that will cost about
$100 after the machines go into mass production next year.

To date, Mr. Negroponte, the brother of the United States intelligence
director, John D. Negroponte, has reached tentative purchase
agreements with Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria and Thailand, and has
struck a manufacturing deal with Quanta Computer Inc., a Taiwanese
computer maker.

Mr. Negroponte, who was in Tripoli this week to meet with Libyan
officials, said he discussed the project extensively with the Libyan
leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, in August.

?When I met with Qaddafi, it had all the mystique and trimmings
expected: middle of the desert, in a tent, 50 degrees C. etc.,? Mr.
Negroponte, who was traveling to Asia on Tuesday, wrote in an e-mail
message. ?It took him very little time to find O.L.P.C. appealing as
an idea.?

The idea appealed to the Libyan leader, according to Mr. Negroponte,
because it fit into his political agenda of creating a more open
Libya and becoming an African leader. The two men also discussed the
possibility of Libya?s financing the purchase of laptops for a group
of poorer African nations like Chad, Niger and Rwanda.

It is possible, Mr. Negroponte said, that Libya will become the first
nation in the world where all school-age children are connected to the
Internet through educational computers. ?The U.S. and Singapore are
not even close,? he said.

To date, One Laptop Per Child has received mixed support from the
American computer industry. Test units currently use a low-power
microprocessor manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices. However, both
Intel and Microsoft have been publicly skeptical about the idea and
have proposed competing low-cost educational computer projects. At the
World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Bill Gates,
Microsoft?s chairman, suggested that the next generation of cellphones
might be a better way to reach across the so-called digital divide.

Mr. Negroponte said Microsoft refused to sell its Windows software to
the project at a price that would make it possible to include in his
system. As a result, his laptops will come with the freely available
Linux operating system, which is becoming increasingly popular in the
developing world.

The idea of a laptop for every schoolchild grew out of Mr.
Negroponte?s experience in giving children Internet-connected laptops
in rural Cambodia. He said the first English word out of the mouths of
the Cambodian students was ?Google.?

Discussions between the One Laptop project and the Libyan government
began as part of work being done by the Monitor Group, an
international consulting firm co-founded by the economist Michael E.
Porter. It is now helping the Libyans develop a national economic

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Libya have warmed
recently, since Tripoli settled the Pan Am 103 bombing case and agreed
to renounce its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Washington lifted a trade
embargo two years ago, and the State Department rescinded Libya?s
designation as a state sponsor of terrorism last June.

For its $250 million investment, Libya will receive 1.2 million
computers, one server per school, a team of technical advisers
to help set up the system, satellite internet service and other

The first test models will be distributed to the five participating
countries companies at the end of this November, according to Mr.
Negroponte, and mass production is planned for June or July of 2007.

The computers come with a wireless connection, a built-in video
camera, an eight-hour battery and a hand crank for recharging
batteries. They will initially be priced below $150, and the price is
expected to decline when they are manufactured in large numbers.

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