Bridging the Global Digital Divide, One Laptop at a Time
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
On May 20, the non-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program unveiled the second version of its XO laptop, which is designed to bring affordable, modern technology to children in developing countries. In April, Intel announced its next-generation Classmate PC, which targets the same market. Meanwhile, Microsoft has been tweaking its Windows XP operating system for these educational devices, which also run on the open source Linux operating system. Experts at Wharton say that the focus on third world countries is promising, but they question whether these efforts will be effective.
One thing is certain, however: The third world is the next frontier for technology companies and non-profit organizations alike. The goal: Bridge the global digital divide that separates wealthy and poor countries. Non-profits such as One Laptop per Child see technology as a way to improve education. Meanwhile, technology companies see a good cause and billions of potential customers. But questions abound. Are laptops more important than other needs, such as clean water? At what price are these laptops “affordable” in the developing world? What are the total costs associated with supporting these devices and connecting them to the Internet? And do these devices improve learning?