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US Group to Give Computers to Children in Developing Countries

The non-profit group "One-Laptop per Child" has announced a program to sell its durable laptop computers to American and Canadian residents for $399. The profit from the sale of each computer will allow the program to donate another computer to a child in a developing country. The "Give One, Get One" plan aims to put the child-friendly laptops into the hands of children across the globe, as VOA's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

The low-cost green and white plastic computer is built to withstand high and icy cold temperatures, as well as impacts from being dropped and spilled milk. In short, it is made for kids. It is lightweight and can be used outdoors in bright sunlight and can be charged with a solar panel or hand crank. It offers built-in wireless networking, video, a music synthesizer and games children like to play.

The "Give One, Get One" program is the realization of a dream for Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory. "It was a pipedream in the beginning, and it now actually exists and that's really pretty cool," he said.

Since 2005, when Negroponte came up with the "One Laptop Per Child" idea, he has criss-crossed the globe, trying to convince leaders of developing countries to buy the inexpensive laptops. Many countries are participating, including Brazil, Uruguay, Libya, Rwanda and Thailand. But a number of poorer countries have been slow to commit to buying them.

Negroponte says he is hoping the "Give One, Get One" promotion will help kick-start the program. It will run for two weeks, beginning November 12. Negroponte says his goal is simple. "For every single child in the world to have the opportunity to learn," he said.

So far, focus groups of American children who have tested the "green machines" have responded enthusiastically, saying the computers definitely pass the "fun test." Negroponte says this is important.

"It's about fun because when you have fun doing things you learn a great deal more," he said.

Each laptop is programmed in the target country's language, with 1,000 books and other educational software. The computers are intended to belong to individual children, who can take them to school and bring them back home in the evening. Negroponte says he hopes to eventually distribute 100 million laptops a year, saying that would take us to a very different planet.