U.N. supports hand-cranked laptops for school children

The United Nations is supporting a project that aims to ship $100, hand-cranked laptops to school-aged children worldwide. The One LapTop per Child organization wants to ship 1 million units by the end of 2007 to sell to governments at cost for distribution to school children and teachers in countries such as Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria. The laptops are expected to have wireless network access and a hand-crank to provide electricity later this year.

It's an ambitious plan that I hope works, but there seems to be some inherent risks already. First, the laptops are going to be lime green with yellow cranks as to prevent theft from adults, but unfortunately, that's probably not enough. I can see many school children where laptops are quite scarce immediately losing their laptops to an adult who gave it a quick paint job. Other folks who have experience in emerging countries have brought up the fact that other problems include the reliability of mesh networking and the necessary support infrastructure. And then there's Craig Barret, chairman of Intel, who said that the world's poor wouldn't want this "gadget" because it would have a limited range of capabilities.

For more about the One LapTop per Child:
- check out this article from AP