People have said almost everything about this topic so let me take also take this opportunity and add some noise in the arena. I will begin with this so that you know my position. The 100 dollar laptop is one of the best ideas I have ever heard in my life. These laptops are to be provided to school going children in developing countries. One thing that makes me crazy about this laptop is the power crank. I think what they call the hand crank.
Let me tell you a story, one and half years ago, I went to this guy’s site and read his article on the laptop. Basically, he said the laptop couldn’t work in developing countries because studies have showed those poor (us) prefer to save money and buy slightly more expensive computer that can give more computing power that buy than those cheap computers. In those cheap computer slots, the 100 dollar laptop was obviously included. I agreed with his article because my desire is to have a good computer that is fast and can run well with this high memory consuming software we have around these days. I was in town at that time and it just made sense.
Then I went to the village (my home area). This is a place where apart from the houses that have iron sheets, you would think you were in a precolonial era. The nearest electric line is about five kilometres away and I should stress it just passes by, not connecting to any house. Mobile communication is accessible in hotspots; under a tree, above the tree (if you can climb), on a hill. Do I continue to tell you about the condition of the road when it rains? I will leave that for you. It’s only the trading center that is connected to the electricity grid. The supply itself is not reliable. The schools, even those that are a few metres away from the trading center are not connected. This is what you call a developing country. One characteristic of a developing country is this: there are modern enclaves that are just like in developed countries. Remember also most of the people who do the decision making live in these developed enclaves and it is very easy to get out of touch with wide backward rural areas. The example is me who though coming out of a village, could forget all that was there and support this man’s article of his relatively expensive computer forgetting that if the idea is to work, we must connect the villages, the village schools to the electric grid. Yes, this man’s slighly more expensive computer needs an electric supply.
Okay, to expand on this man’s idea this is what would happen. Am using the example of schools because I want you to see the beauty of the idea. Despite the government’s effort, many classrooms still consist of trees. Yes, lessons are conducted under trees because there are no buildings. So that means we have to build new classrooms to accommodate the ‘slightly expensive’ computers (I don’t think computers like dripping roofs). Then we must connect the schools to the electric grid. After that we must get Uninterrupted Powers Supplies (UPS’s) because the current is not stable. Then if we are to utilise these computers, we must get generators. No am not getting out of my mind here, I told you the power supply is not reliable. It goes off for two days or three (If I told you sometimes for weeks, you wouldn’t believe). It is very much possible because when power is switched off, some enterprising thieves steal the electric wire from the electric grid, others steal the oil that cools the transformers and this leads to overheating when power is switched on, causing the transformers to blow. Back at the regional branch of the electricity supplying company, a request is sent to main branch that is the capital city some 250 kilometres away. Of course, beauracracy is a fact. You see it every where you go. Let me not paint a total picture of bleakness but that will give you a glimpse of what we call a developing country.
This leads me to ponder on the beauty of an idea that results into a hand crank being put on a laptop that will end up being sold at 100 dollars.
This beauty not liked by some people who have not tried anything to better developing countries (or may be they have through these trading deals we hear so often with strings attached, or given some money). I will add that money is not the solution to everything. We have scandals almost every other week. People have squadered money and are just not tired still. We are just becoming more self centred, more selfish, day by day. No wonder I keep hearing top officials of companies that sell very expensive computers with their proprietary software from all sides. One funny thing is that they have never initiated any programme of such a kind (providing those who can’t afford their expensive computer with some cheaper ones). So they are all very concerned because even their ‘less expensive computers’ are only cheap to them who receive a paycheck at the end of the month.
Am about to begin calling this laptop ‘the affordable tool.’ You see, that’s what I need in my hand not some money donations. I can use it (I already know how I will use it) and some money will trickle in. One factor here is ‘my sweat.’ That is a very big factor in development but most people forget about it.
I was excited when I first heard of the idea of this laptop and am still waiting with anticipation. One thing I can’t understand is this: our government has recognised the need of ICT in development and has even put a ministry to handle the issues related to ICT. Sadly and sadly, there are just ‘interested’ in the laptop idea. To me, that’s not enough. They should do more than that preferably ordering a number of units. There many things that governments become interested in and it all ends on ‘showing some interest’ and folders full of paper.
Well, the laptops are meant for children as they keep saying but if they get this side, there is going to be some change in plan. To give you a clue, am beginning to set aside some loose coins so that am not caught unaware.
For the mouth merchants who don’t even have a clue of what they are talking about, I just leave them with something President Theodore Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who stives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worth cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. Far better is it to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”