[MONTEVIDEO] Uruguay is the first country to place an official order for child-friendly laptops from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative, and Peru looks set to follow.
The Uruguayan government made the first official order of 100,000 laptops at the end of October and there are plans to purchase another 300,000 by 2009 to provide one for every Uruguayan schoolchild.
The order was placed on behalf of the state-run Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay, which runs a large educational and communication project called Ceibal, according to BBC News. Eight or nine of the country's nineteen regions will receive the first batch of computers.
The Peruvian president, Alan García, announced on 29 October that the government has set up a US$6.5 million fund to buy the first 44,000 laptops for Peruvian schoolchildren in the near future.
One hundred thousand teachers will also receive US$150 from the government and a loan of US$350 from Peru Central Bank to buy their own laptops, that they can pay back at a rate of US$9 a month for four years.
Jackie Lustig, OLPC spokesperson, told SciDev.Net that OLPC "was not surprised by Uruguay nor Peru [making orders] because the organisation has been working with them for many months this year. Peru is not yet finalised but close."
"OLPC is in discussion with a number of other developing countries and looks forward to them coming on board soon," adds Lustig.
OLPC was founded by Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and its board is made up of various people from the computing industry and education.
The OLPC laptop — called the 'XO' — is designed to be used by children in developing countries. It is durable, waterproof, solar-powered and has a special display that is readable outside, even in harsh sunlight.
The laptops were intended to cost US$100 — they were originally known as "US$100 laptops" — but the cost is currently US$188.
"The long-term goal is for the laptop cost to be US$100. Mass production began yesterday [5 November] in China and as the volume [of production] ramps up and economies of scale are achieved, the per unit cost will come down," said Lustig.