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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

$100 Computers in Africa

100 dollar laptopMIT has been working on a $100 computer project for their One laptop per child movement. The program has backing by the likes of AMD, Google, Motorola and Samsung and will be rolled out in Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa.

100 dollar laptop - powerThe Linux OS based laptop is built of weatherproof rubber and includes a manual crank to recharge the battery if there is not power source available. The power cord and AC adaptor convert into a carrying/shoulder strap (we’ll see if that works!).

Overall, I really love this idea and believe it can make a significant change, in Africa in particular. There are a few obstacles in the road to connectivity utopia though, one would be the fact that it is the government of these countries that do the purchasing – always a problem in corrupt places. Also, $100 seems inexpensive to those of us in the US and Europe, however that is a very sizeable portion of the average Kenyan’s budget.

Connectivity to the web is another issue – and is where this project can really provide it’s worth in the long-run. It might be possible to find some inexpensive way to get online, maybe that’s why Google is backing it. With the new GoogleNet, they might be able to provide free Wi-Fi or WiMax hotspots.


  1. Good points. This power cord solution would be nice for use over here as well, although I guess the wind-up mechanism is even better. “What it will not do is store a massive amount of data.” = only FlashRAM and no rotating HDDs?

    I also like the idea that the laptops can link to each other via WiFi which might already be like a small LAN, thus getting them closer to understand the idea behind the internet et al. Let’s hope they’ll put a special sealing on the display to prevent it from dust to enter.

  2. ditto JKE about the cover to prevent dust. On the power issue, solar would work really well, there is this solar back pack by voltaic systems (abit pricey at $229) though the price can be much reduced if assembly is done in ahem Jua Kali; it has adapters for everything including walkman etc. check them out http://www.voltaicsystems.com. Pop Sci had a how-to on hacking it so it can be a wifi hotspot, problem is the junxion(sp) box for it costs $700 dollars. But then again, harambee right?


  3. Good points JKE/afroM. I like the idea of providing cheap jua kali solar. I’d seen that backpack powered wi-fi hotspot thing earlier this year too (maybe it was on your blog??). If there’s a way to do that cheaply, I trust African ingenuity to find a way! In fact, let these computers go for a year and you’ll see all manner of great additions that no one has even thought of yet.

    I’d like to know what type of ports and connections will be on the laptop. If it has a basic USB port, you can do a lot, both for hard drive space and other applications.

  4. i used this blog for a discussion with my grade 10 history class today. they had some interesting things to say. i had them write about pros ands cons of giving these to students. one student said if there is internet connectivity it may actually hinder the student’s education because they’ll spend all their time surfing the web. hmmmm…

    i echo the african ingenuity bit. cell phone use in africa has been so much more creative than other places in the world. and cheers to the jua kali guys. they are geniuses.

  5. I think the laptop computer is a great idea for the kids in africa

  6. I live in NY and I need it for my daughter. Where can I get at least one to buy. She is 5 years old.

  7. I would like to let you all know that laptops are being delivered for the first time into Africa on 13 March 2008. One hundred XOs (the name of the OLPC laptops) will be given to the children of Kliptown, Soweto. For information on the laptop, check out http://www.laptop.org. There was a give one – get one promotion over the holidays that allowed people to buy one XO and send one to a child in underdeveloped nations. That info can be found at http://www.laptopgiving.org/en/give-a-laptop.php This is a wonderful program to help educate the children of the world!

  8. Robert Wheeler

    June 10, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Will the give one-get 0ne program be repeated?

  9. Agnes Helen Bellel, Ph.D.

    August 2, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I am very interested in writing a grant to fund these $100 computers for a population of students living in rural Alabama, City of Detroit, and a Village in Ghana. I would like to establish a “Village to Village Literacy Networking” project. Do you know of any resources?
    Agnes Helen Bellel, Ph.D.

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