[Paleopsych] Wired News: Laptops for Kids With No Power

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Tue Jun 28 18:45:51 UTC 2005

Wired News: Laptops for Kids With No Power

[I've appended another story from the Discovery channel below. A minute of 
cranking can power a laptop for ten minutes and a minute of bicycling for 100 
minutes. I recall that Ted Turner was planning to put satellites up that would 
cover all but Antarctica, also to get everyone access to educational materials. 
I presume this meant that anyone with an antenna could get on the World-Wide 
Web without further expenditures. There's plenty of free education content up 
there now, including what will
eventually be all courses at MIT.

[Will egalitarian visions come about at last, now that all have access to 

    By [21]Stephen Leahy
    02:00 AM Jun. 06, 2005 PT

    Giving laptops to school kids has been a big hit in the United States,
    but an ambitious plan to sell millions of cheap notebooks to children
    in developing countries may be more challenging, experts warn. Many
    need electricity more than laptops.

    Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of [23]MIT's Media Lab, is
    planning to provide several hundred million kids in developing
    countries their own rugged, internet- and multimedia-capable [24]$100

    But while Negroponte sees the notebooks as an educational tool that
    can help alleviate world poverty, others say it will take a lot more
    than a cheap computer.

    "It's not as simple as 'if you build it, they will use it,'" said
    [29]Andy Carvin, director of the [30]Digital Divide Network, a
    community of educators and activists working to include more people in
    the digital age.

    For the program to work, training and technical support has to exist
    -- as well as basic literacy and local content to meet local needs, he

    "Some kids could probably do well on their own, but the majority will
    need long-term support of some kind," he said.

    For the past three years, every seventh- and eighth-grader in Maine
    has been given a laptop. The [31]project has reportedly turned
    slackers into busy bees and now ninth-grade students will also get
    laptops this fall. States such as Michigan and New Mexico have similar
    programs, as do a number of school boards across the United States.

    But a big part of the success is properly trained teachers, technical
    support and specially designed educational content, said Carvin.

    Though the first $100 laptop has yet to be built -- work is scheduled
    to begin in September -- the project's three corporate partners,
    [32]Advanced Micro Devices, [33]Google and [34]News Corporation, have
    each pledged $2 million apiece and tech expertise.

    The first 6 million laptops are to be manufactured in China starting
    in 2006, project representatives claim, and orders from the Chinese,
    Brazilian and other education departments are expected shortly. The
    machines are intended for governments or large institutions and will
    not be available commercially.

    To reduce the need for technical support, Negroponte promises the
    laptops will be extra tough, simple and easily fixed.

    However, power is a major problem when more then 2 billion people do
    not have access to electricity.

    While solar and windup mechanisms are being explored, the MIT team is
    hoping to develop what it calls "parasitic power" -- powering a laptop
    just by typing on the keys.

    [35]Seymour Papert, a mathematician and child learning expert who is
    one of Negroponte's key collaborators, said when children have their
    own laptop, it enables them learn on their own, at their own pace and
    to work on projects that interest them.

    "It liberates the learning from the limitations of the teacher who
    probably doesn't know much about math, science or computers," said
    Papert, who was also a key player in the Maine laptop project.
    "Laptops mean you can access an enormous library of information that's
    up-to-date whether the child is in school or at home."

    Negroponte said he has seen the power of laptops firsthand at a rural
    village school in Cambodia. Each child has a Panasonic Toughbook and
    the school is equipped with Wi-Fi and a satellite link.

    "A village that has no books, suddenly has access to Google," said
    Negroponte, who established the school with his wife Elaine. "It
    changes their lives in several ways, ranging from self-esteem to
    empowerment, to fulfilling the passion for learning."

    But internet access and electricity, not cheap computers, are the real
    challenges in developing countries, said Wayan Vota, a program manager
    at [36]Geekcorps, a volunteer organization that teaches communities
    how to use affordable information and communication technologies.

    Geekcorps has helped build BottleNets in Africa: wi-Fi relay stations
    built using wire mesh, discarded plastic bottles and bamboo poles.

    "The $100 laptop is a really cool idea. But the real technology
    bottleneck is getting an affordable internet connection to the outside
    world," said Vota.

    In most countries, telecommunications are controlled by monopolies
    that think internet access is only for the rich and so charge
    accordingly, Vota said. And even at high prices, very little bandwidth
    is made available.

    Out of the box, the $100 laptops will be Wi-Fi and cell-network
    enabled, Papert said. They will also be able to make their own ad-hoc
    mesh networks, peer to peer. It should be possible to set up a central
    server in town, and the kids could get content updates as they walk

    Even without internet access, high-quality content can be provided
    cheaply on a CD, Papert added.

    "There's plenty of creative ways to create networks and share costs,"
    he said.


   23. http://www.media.mit.edu/
   24. http://laptop.media.mit.edu/
   27. http://wired-vig.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,67667,00.html
   28. http://wired-vig.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,67667,00.html
   29. http://www.digitaldivide.net/profile/acarvin
   30. http://www.digitaldividenetwork.org/
   32. http://www.amd.com/us-en/
   33. http://www.google.com/corporate/index.html
   34. http://www.newscorp.com/index2.html
   35. http://web.media.mit.edu/~papert/
   36. http://www.geekcorps.org/


MIT Plans $100 Laptop
By Tracy Staedter, Discovery News

May 25, 2005- Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology's Media Lab, recently unveiled his plan to provide 
affordable laptop computers for developing communities - and do it at a cost of 
$100 each.

Such an inexpensive device could throw laptop manufacturers into a panic, but 
it also could improve education in remote areas.

"This is not an effort to save the third world; it's an effort to get some of 
the tools for change in place," said Alan Kay, an early pioneer of personal 
computing, who is currently at Hewlett Packard Labs developing some of the 
educational software for the laptop.

The prototype is still in development, but the lightweight machine, measuring 
no bigger than 10 inches by 8 inches, will come with 1 gigabyte of flash memory 
and at least two USB port for plugging in external devices, such as printers.

At least one manufacturer plans to build a printer for Negroponte's machine 
that will sell for $35. Negroponte also hopes to manufacture the display - the 
most expensive part of any computer - for under $30.

The laptop will have wireless capabilities and a Linux operating system, which 
looks a lot like Microsoft Windows but has the advantage of costing nothing.

Since batteries are few and far between in developing countries, Negroponte 
plans on technologically simple and cheap power methods, such as turning a hand 
crank. One minute of cranking would bring 10 minutes of operating time.

Using a bike to power the machine would bring 100 minutes of power per minute 
of pedaling, Negroponte said.

Negroponte's goal is ambitious. He wants third world governments to provide one 
laptop per child in entire regions. Several governments have shown interest. 
Brazil is expected to purchase 1 million machines, and China has discussed 
ordering 3 million.

Additional funding may come from the World Bank and private foundations, 
Negroponte said.

Sri Lankan native Bernardine Dias, a research scientist who heads the 
TechBridgeWorld initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, has some reservations 
about Negroponte's plan.

"I don't know that it is the most useful thing," she said. "You have to think 
of the bigger picture of who is going to maintain those computers."

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