OLPC Part 2: Nicholas Negroponte on the Mideast and the XO 3 Tablet—and Why He May Not Ever Have to Build It

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places like Gaza or Afghanistan, where the governments can’t afford them. That necessitated coming up with a new way of getting them paid for, Negroponte says.

So how is this going? Progress, to date, is slow. “Both Gaza and Afghanistan are in process-nobody’s stepped up to the plate,” Negroponte says, perhaps allowing some frustration to show through. In the case of Afghanistan, he says, only 3,000 laptops have been distributed so far, with another 1,000 on the way. “The American government spends $2 billion a week on the war, and we spend $2 million a week on education [in Afghanistan]. It’s kind of incredible. So all the president of the United States has to do is move half of one percent from Column A to Column B and every child in Afghanistan would have a connected laptop.”

Gaza has seen a bit more success, but only a bit. Some 3,000 laptops have been distributed there as well, the last of the now-ended Give One, Get One program that donated one computer for each one purchased, Negroponte says. But OLPC is not allowed to talk to Hamas, which controls Gaza, “so it’s complicated,” he says. But that hasn’t daunted OLPC’s ambitions. The foundation wants to bring laptops to every child in Gaza and the West Bank, and to a large number in Israel as well. (All told, there are some 390,000 children in Gaza, 575,000 on the West Bank, and another 850,000 in Israel, Negroponte says.) That effort would cost about $300 million, he says, “which is not so big…it’s a manageable project.” What’s more, he adds, “We want to raise that by December 31st.”

To do this, OLPC is in discussion with other countries, trying to forge what Negroponte calls “bilateral-type agreements.” For instance, he says, “Maybe a Japan or Norway would help fund Gaza or Afghanistan,” he says.

XO 3— An Unbreakable Tablet Computer

XO3photoNext up was the XO 3. It was here Negroponte dropped the news of Marvell’s grant. The chipmaker will provide the brains of a tablet for the developed world that will hit the market sometime next year, with the XO 3 version currently slated for 2012. Negroponte says the requirements of the OLPC model—targeting children in emerging nations—make it harder to produce than the “first world” Marvell tablet. He then ticked off the core features envisioned for the XO 3:

—100 percent plastic: “So it will be unbreakable,” he explains. “That’s very key. It’s not soft, but it’s bendable. The way to make something unbreakable is to have it be bendable.”

—Super thin and lightweight: Comparing the XO 3 to the iPad, Negroponte says, “It’s … Next Page »

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