Wired News: Low-Cost Laptops for Kids in Need

It's a grand idea and a daunting challenge: to create rugged, internet- and multimedia-capable laptop computers at a cost of $100 apiece.

That's right, the price of dinner for four at a moderately priced Manhattan restaurant can buy a Third World kid what Negroponte considers an essential tool for making it in the 21st century. The laptops would be mass-produced in orders of no smaller than 1 million units and bought by governments, which would distribute them.

Is this a good idea, taken as a whole? Are we really looking to give to 3rd world students, or just find a way to open a new market? I wonder if you can truly do both without being biased towards the latter. if you gave a laptop, say an old 486, to the people I worked with in the rainforests of the Congo, well, there ain't a whole lot you could do with it. That $100 could buy a heck of a heck of a lot of books, paper, and pencils for the local school.

Seriously folk, it'd be great to have a $100 laptop for underprivileged American school children -- and it'd be ever better to be to the point that students around the world would benefit from one. But if you check the average salaries of the parents, you'll see $100 can go an awful long ways put to better uses. If it's any help, I had a doctor pay me a house call, give me medicine, and give me a follow-up for $6 and change. I was eating for literally pennies a day. If I was making a buck a day, I don't know that I'd spend a quarter of my yearly salary on a laptop where I can't even find a phone to plug in my modem.

Good intent, but awfully naive. Because my idealistic, naive self just can't imagine that these people are motivated by exploitative self-interest. Right?