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$100 Laptop Comes to More Countries


More of the so-called "$100 laptops" are being distributed to the world's poorest children. While the computer still costs more than originally advertised when the initiative was unveiled three years ago, some 300,000 children in developing countries are now using the distinctive tiny green laptop. And the non-profit organization "One Laptop Per Child" hopes to double that number soon. VOA's Bill Rodgers has more in this Searching for Solutions report.

At the Apostol Santiago school in the highlands of Peru, children are enthralled with the laptop. Yesenia Borquez, 8, says she is thrilled with her computer. "I'm very happy because I learn everything on my computer," she says.

Children at some 6,000 Peruvian schools will be getting the computers from One Laptop Per Child, a non-profit organization.

Founder Nicholas Negroponte unveiled the $100 laptop three years ago with great fanfare. The aim: to make a computer that would cost as little as $100 and distribute millions of them to the world's poorest children.

Negroponte tells VOA the laptop is transforming education. "Teachers will tell you they've never had so much fun teaching. It's completely transformed teaching. The second thing you'll hear is about discipline problems, the love of learning, the engagement -- you walk into a classroom and the energy level is something you've never seen before. It's just unbelievable," he said.

The laptop runs on a conventional power source, but also can be charged with a hand crank or a solar panel, which makes it functional in even the most remote areas of the developing world.

However, the true cost of the laptop is higher than expected, about $187. Negroponte remains optimistic the $100 per laptop goal will eventually be met, as prices for components go down.

He also rejects criticism that money would be better spent on building schools and buying books, instead of on laptops. "Training teachers, building schools, that's all very important. And not for a moment are we saying: 'Don't do that.' I am saying don't ship books, but I'm not saying don't do the other. But by doing something like this, in parallel or instead of, is leveraging the kids themselves," Negroponte said.

At the Apostol Santiago school in Peru, the 60 laptops are seen as toys by many of the children. They are much more than that, says school principal Guillermo Lazo. "They have a powerful tool in their hands, even though, incredibly, the children think they are toys. But they are really a powerful information tool," he says.

And educators say they hope these laptops will help children overcome the poverty and isolation that is so endemic in the developing world.

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