Wired News: Laptop Detractors Shrugged Off
I'm a little worried about this effort. On the surface, and from a Western perspective, this seems like a good solution to the digital divide. However, if you look at similar past programs, they have become seriously problematic. I'm thinking in particular of the early drive to bring mechanized agriculture to smallholders, resulting in rusting tractor carcases strewn about the developing world or sold on the black market; of the mosquito net distribution issue that resulted in black market use of the nets rather than home use to prevent malaria. Of course, having people purchase the computers will avert some of the potential value problems, but even at $50, they will be far out of the reach of those at the 'bottom of the pyramid'. Furthermore, who is going to service all those computers? I'm sure that Negroponte doesn't expect teachers and aid workers to become the help desk for all these devices, and they will break, many of them the first time they are used.
It seems to me that all this money would be better spent improving teaching skills and educational materials and infrastructure and access to education, especially for girls, rather than on a device of questionable value.