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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, plan to provide laptops costing just US$100 to 100-200 million schoolchildren in the developing world by 2006.

But bridging the digital divide between rich and poor countries is not just about making a cheap product, it is also about making it usable in areas that have unstable electricity supplies, poor transport systems, and few trained computer technicians.

In this article, Clint Witchalls reports how Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists Nicholas Negroponte, Seymour Papert and Joseph Jacobson aim to overcome these problems. They are developing innovative ways of powering the machines, such as through the action of typing. The laptops are also being designed to be as robust as military equipment to prevent them being damaged in transit on poor roads.

Similar projects have failed before, Witchalls reports, but Negroponte has the advantage of experience in providing information and communication technologies to schoolchildren in poor rural communities. The plan has already received US$2 million from both Google and computer chip maker ADM, and samples should be ready by September this year.

Link to full article in the The Guardian