There are some very creative and serious efforts underway to bridge the so-called “digital divide.” One such effort is a hand-cranked laptop developed at MIT that will hopefully be available to schoolchildren in poorer countries a year from now:
In principle, the project seems simple: Design a laptop with built-in wireless and minimal power consumption, find manufacturers willing to build it for about $100, convince governments to buy it in quantities of at least 1 million as an initial order, and give it to schoolchildren to keep as their own property. (The goal is tens of millions produced and distributed within two years.)
But negotiating with governments has proved to be strenuous–Negroponte called it “very hard”–and the price quotes to build the machine remain closer to $110 than $100. “We’re not even going to promise they’re $100,” he said. “They may be $115. What we’re promising is that the price will float down.”
There are other concerns that must be overcome as well, such as the desire to resell the laptops. I hope it works out though, because it’s a very interesting project that would likely make a real difference. There are roughly six governments that have shown great interest thus far, including Brazil and Thailand.
Read: CNET News.com