U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan met with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunsia Africa to discuss plans to close the technology gap between developed nations and African nations.
The forum was not dominated by proposals to donate money or send missionaries to develop community access to the Internet, but by a one-kilogram, green laptop computer.
Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, developed the computer to help eradicate poverty in underdeveloped nations.The laptop costs $100 and does not rely on electricity to operate. By turning the yellow crank for 10 minutes, the laptop runs for 30 minutes.
Negroponte says that a basic computer can be produced cheaply if complicated technology is stripped away, according to CNN.com. Because Internet access is limited in developing countries, satellite dishes must be purchased to allow Internet connection. Currently, only three of 100 people have access to the Net in regions of West Africa.
Negroponte’s non-profit organization, One Laptop per Child, plans to sell the laptops with a minimum order of one million to governments in developing nations.
"I think the laptop will help by increasing the countries spheres in relation to the rest of the world,said Jae Park," a business administration major at the University of Texas at Austin. It may not directly end poverty, but it will influence a developing countries economic relation to the rest of the world."
There were several critics of the laptop at the conference, especially after the crank broke off in Annan’s hand as he began to power the system.
"I’m interested in how this is supposed to eradicate poverty because having a laptop isn’t going to feed a child, stop a leaking roof, or pay for a doctor," said Kevin Williams, a sophomore business management major at Texas Tech University.
According to a CNN.com poll, 77 percent of those surveyed do not believe that the laptop will help to eradicate poverty.
"Poverty comes from centuries of racial and socio-economic injustice not a technology gap," said Brittany Anderson, a sophomore psychology major at Spelman College. "I think it has to start with the eradication of racial and social inequality. When that problem is identified it can begin to be solved, then everyone will really have equal opportunity."
Negroponte says that the laptops should be ready for shipment by the end of 2006. Manufacturing will begin only after 5 to 10 million machines are ordered and paid for.