Everything you have ever wanted to know about the One Laptop Per Child but never dared to ask has been answered in an excellent feature titled The Laptop Crusade by Tekla Perry in the April 2007 issue of the IEEE Spectrum. (Here’s a link to the print version of the article.)
[Graphics from the IEEE article. Permission to reproduce the graphics here requested.]
The OLPC device is a technological marvel in itself. A great deal of innovation and innovative technological thinking has been invested in it. But geeks are not necessarily the most well-equipped to address social engineering challenges especially those encountered in poor developing economies. As owners of hammers are reputed to perceive all problems as nails, technology enthusiasts often miss the non-technical nature of many problems that plague the developing world.
If India had the resources to pay for an OLPC, it would have been wonderful because not only would every child who needed it would have had one, but more importantly it would have meant that India is rich enough to not only provide every child with what is needed for basic education but also to give kids what they truly need to be competitive in the future. But India does not have the US$ 60,000,000,000 (sixty billion dollars) which I estimate it would cost for providing OLPC to 200 million students. Reality is that India does not even have the resources to even fund the most primitive of schools for all–tens of thousands of classrooms don’t even have the money for blackboard and chalk.
I wish OLPC all success and I envy those kids who will get to use them. I am really sorry for the millions of Indian children who would not have a chance to use it.
Postscript: You may also wish to read the supporting article by my friend Ethan Zuckerman titled “Other Roads to Computing for All.” Our very own Rajesh Jain is also driving a computing for all venture: see the Newsweek International cover story on Novatium.