Tuesday, January 1, 2008

OLPC / G1G1 in the Santa Fe New Mexican

Program aims to provide laptops to every school-age child in developing world

By John Sena | The New Mexican

12/22/2007 - 12/22/07

A small group of people gathered around Claiborne Booker when he arrived at the St. John's College coffee shop Friday morning carrying the XO computer.

Made of green and white plastic and equipped with a handle, the XO looks a lot like a child's toy. For about an hour, the group, consisting primarily of software developers and computer scientists, took turns fiddling with the new laptop.

Booker, an investment manager and one of a number of people who meet every Friday at the cafe, is one of two in the group to get the XO. Others are still waiting.

They are participating in "Give One, Get One," a program of the organization One Laptop per Child. Its goal is to provide a basic computer to every school-age child in the developing world.

For $399, a person can donate one XO laptop to a child and receive one for the child in his or her life. The offer, available in the U.S. and Canada, lasts until the end of the year.

Booker and his friends have followed the development of the XO since it was first announced about two years ago. The computer is the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who believed the computers would bridge the information gap that exists between children in rich and poor countries.

Initially he hoped to build the computer for $100, but the current price is about double that. About 9 inches wide by 9 inches long, the XO uses the Linux operation system and other open-source software. It has no CD/DVD drive and no hard drive. Made to be used in parts of the world where power is intermittent, it employs a new chemistry that allows one battery charge to last for six hours of heavy activity.

So far the program has provided hundreds of thousands of computers to children in poor countries, but is still far short of its 150 million goal.

Booker ordered his pair in November when the program started. He said it's a way to do something nice for poor children, while also getting something the group can use for its own devices.

Members of the group said they would use the computer's mesh network technology — which the computers use to communicate with each other wirelessly — to work on collaborative projects.

David West, a computer science professor at the College of Santa Fe, said he intends to use his XO as a tool in his college course. With it, West said, students will learn to write programs that will perform functions such as photo editing. Once the programs are written, West said, others with XO computers could use them.

More than anything, though, the group said the computers will provide a wealth of information for kids who so far have not had it. "Getting people access to information would go a long way to helping them learn," Booker said.

For more information about One Laptop Per Child and the Give One, Get One program, visit laptop.org.

Contact John Sena at 986-3079 or jsena@sfnewmexican.com.

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