Rwanda joins low-cost laptop project

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Rwanda is the eighth developing country to join the One Laptop Per Child initiative aimed at giving away inexpensive computers to all young students.

The nonprofit project said Wednesday it will provide Rwanda with initial test laptops and technical support at no cost within a few days.

Starting late this summer, Rwanda will begin receiving hundreds of thousands of computers at an initial cost of about $150 apiece. The government will cover the cost, with a goal of providing one laptop per child to all primary school children within five years.

The laptops come as part of an agreement reached during a meeting Tuesday between the central African nation's president, Paul Kagame, and Nicholas Negroponte, who launched the initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab two years ago.

Similar agreements have been reached with Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and Uruguay. Organizers of the Cambridge, Mass.-based project are in talks with several other countries.

Though initial units now cost about $150, the computer developed by the project has been known as the $100 laptop because of the ultra-low cost its creators eventually hope to achieve through mass production.

MIT formed One Laptop as a nonprofit organization to oversee the project, which seeks to improve education by giving children brightly colored computers that have wireless capabilities and sport a hand-pulled mechanism for charging batteries.

The green-and-white computers, which go by the name XO, feature several design elements designed to keep their prices low. The computers will use the free Linux operating system, flash memory instead of a hard drive and a microprocessor requiring minimal power. The user interface has been designed to be intuitive for children.

The machines are being made by Quanta Computer Inc., and countries will get versions specific to their own languages. Governments or donors will buy the laptops for children to own, along with associated server equipment for their schools.

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