I recently asked some questions about the The One Laptop per Child Project, as to the openness of the design and the target demographics. Would the hardware design be open-source and available to anyone who wanted to produce it? Would middle-class American kids also be getting them? Who's going to foot the enormous bill for this project, and who stands to profit the most?
Ethan Zuckerman, of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard had this to say:
- The machine is designed to be sold to the education department of governments in the developing world. It's being sold as a textbook replacement - buy one of these and use it as an ebook, for the cost of the books a kid would need to buy for three or four years of schooling. Obviously, the laptop can do more than just act as an ebook, but this is a salespitch for the government partners. Obviously, many of these governments are going to receive outside funding - World Bank, etc. - to support the project
- Who's going to profit? Possibly the consortium building the laptop... but it's a nonprofit, so it's hardly a big fiscal win from them. Possibly Quanta, who has the contract to build the first edition of the machine.
- Will be be available to middle class American kids? It's not the first target market, but quite possibly as the project matures. Is it misguided colonialism? Possibly, though there's certainly tremendous enthusiasm from many developing nations about the project.
- Will it be open? The software is supposed to be entirely open, based around Redhat Fedora. The hardware specs have been widely published, but the current design includes a custom display IC - dunno if that chip design will be published. (I'll ask.) The idea is that, eventually, the design will be available and people can build it in their own nations - at first, to get economies of scale, the first 5m will be built by Quanta in Taiwan.
Fair enough. Mr. Zuckerman is not an official spokesman for the project, though he's been following its progress closely, and recently visited the its headquarters.
And apparently, they dropped the hand-crank because Kofi Annan is strong as an ox.