A global education system in which Linux notebook computers are as common as pencils or textbooks even in the poorest nations has been outlined today by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Nicholas Negroponte is aiming to accelerate an international drive to mass-produce Linux laptops costing as little as $100.
The “rugged” computers will have full-colour screens, and will be powered by “wind-up and other innovative sources of electricity for use in remote places”.
The laptops will come enabled for wireless and mobile phone internet access, and “have USB ports galore” to accommodate additional peripheral devices such as printers.
Its current specifications include a 500MHz processor, 1GB of memory and an XVGA display.
Professor Negroponte outlined his vision at an event in Tokyo which was co-sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the United Nations University and the International Telecommunication Union.
The goals of the event include the development of information and communication infrastructures that enable universal, sustainable and affordable access by all.
“Sadly, most educational systems that recognise the importance of computers provide a roomful of desktops to which a child might go for a few hours a week,” said Professor Negroponte.
“But computing should be like a pencil: you have your own (versus community pencils) and use it for all kinds of purposes related to school, home, work and play.
“This model of computing calls for a lightweight, full-screen, full-colour, fully-connected laptop.
The article goes on to say it will not be sold to individuals, but distributed via ministries of education.
I think this is a truly wonderful idea overall. I applaud the effort and hope it fares very well.
However, without training to back that up in; the ethical use of computers, the understanding of our personal responsibility in the ‘global community’ and the dangers inherent in using the web, well … We’ve all received the ‘Nigerian scams’ in email, the virus de jour, hit spyware ridden/malicious websites (even some that use Java and can effect Linux), and social engineering needs to be understood so these new users don’t fall prey to it. These are things that any new user needs to learn, and often it is not learned early enough.
Granted much of this will be mitigated by the use of Linux, but not all of it. This is not a simple toaster or a pencil, it’s a connected computer in the larger ‘global community’ network and we all need to be good netizens.
Please, don’t misunderstand me …
I don’t say this because I think this should not happen. I think it important that it does happen. There is great potential out there all around the world. And we all know that necessity is the mother of invention.
But I think education should be included with each computer. And I don’t think it should be limited to this project, it would be very helpful for all new users regardless of where they live.