Imagine a world in which every school-going child owns a laptop, no matter how poor his or her family is. In India alone, this would mean well over 300 million units. Sounds like a pipedream, right?
The One Laptop Per Child scheme is, on the face, a simple one: provide affordable ($100 or Rs 4,200), low-energy consuming (less than 2 watts), rugged laptops (called the XO laptop) to children in remote and impoverished areas.
The laptops come with built-in wireless (wi-fi) capability, so that children can create what’s called a ‘mesh wi-fi network’ that keeps them interconnected. They’ve achieved three parts of the four-pronged plan, Negroponte says, but the current price of Rs 8,000 is nearly twice the Rs 4,200 that the group envisages.
The Digital Bridge Foundation, part of mega-corporation the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, has been tapped to help orchestrate the group’s initial forays into India.
But India presents more challenges than just scale. With only 3 per cent of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) dedicated to education, it means that about Rs 5,000 is spent each year per child.
Obviously, when the laptop alone exceeds such a paltry allowance, the plan faces a serious uphill battle. One way to circumvent this dilemma would be to make the XO laptops school property, so that many children could avail of one unit. But, according to Negroponte, this is a poor idea.