One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization that sought to put $100 laptop computers in the hands of millions in developing countries, has announced a deal with the East African Community that aims to distribute cheap laptops to every grade-school child in Tanzania and other EAC member countries.
If fully funded, the deal will bring 30 million laptops to schools in Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda by 2015. At present, the EAC lacks the money to purchase the laptops and is seeking outside partners to secure the necessary funds.
The laptops are rugged and durable and are set up to run both Linux and Microsoft Windows. Some EAC member states have already conducted trials with the machines that have proved the usefulness of technology in the classroom. Rwanda, for instance, already has 20,000 of the laptops in its schools and has ordered 70,000 more.
OLPC was created by Nicholas Negroponte, professor and head of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as an educational project.
After observing how connected laptops transformed the lives of children in a remote Cambodian village, Negroponte founded the organisation to develop a rugged, cheap laptop that would be sold in bulk to governments in developing countries at a cost of $100 each.
When governments proved unwilling or unable to afford bulk purchases, OLPC shifted to a strategy of bringing the computers, priced at $200 each, to individual schools around the world.
The agreement with the EAC marks a return to OLPC's original vision of distributed networked computers as tools to transform the learning experience for the children who would most benefit from better education.