Nicolas Negroponte, founder and Chairman of the legendary Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab has for years been trumpeting the importance of finding ways to reduce the digital divide between technology have's and have nots and particularly between the developing and developed nations.
Now, finally, comes the answer. Negroponte with sponsors including Google, AMD and Murdoch have just launched a $100 laptop for the poor in developing nations such as Africa and Latin America.
The laptop's features include a tough screen that can switch form colour to black and white to make it easier to view in bright sunlight. The laptops are incased in rubber and they have a hand crank which provides power when there is no electricity.
The software has been stripped to the basic and the laptops have a 500MHz AMD processor (no wonder they're sponsors) and runs on free linux software. It connects to the internet through wi-fi.
They cannot store much data as they have no hard drive. Instead they use flash memory like a digital camera or mobile phone.
Negroponte's group haven't sold any of these computers yet, but are apparently making progress with numerous governments and Brazil and Thailand in particular. They want to sell them through their education ministries. Negropente announced that production would start at the end of next year, with up to 10M shipping in 2007.
This is a fabulous idea. Lets hope its a success. This could finally bring computing and the internet to children all over the world.