Glimpsing Nigeria's digital lifeline

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OLPC

Until recently there was nothing that marked out Galadima primary school as anything out of the ordinary.

The government-run school, flanked by a red dust road on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria, taught about 300 pupils who congregated from the surrounding rural area.

But in March this year, the scruffy primary became part of a remarkable experiment. It was the first in Africa to get its hands on the so-called $100 laptop, a rugged device aimed at helping children in the developing world get the most from their education.

The school was given around 300 of the low-cost laptops along with a satellite internet link known as VSAT, a power generator and solar panels. The idea was to see if the machines would survive the ultimate test: children.

The hardware trial ran for five months.

"We've actually learned a lot from that trial - really simple things that are almost mundane but important," explained Walter Bender of OLPC.

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The one laptop per child (OLPC) project, a brainchild of MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, will soon find its way into Indian homes.

The OLPC Foundation is in talks with several state governments to provide these laptops, which cost around $180 or Rs 7,160, in schools. The low-cost laptops could also be retailed at your nearest electronics store soon.

The OLPC Foundation, along with Reliance Communications (RCom), did a pilot project with a school in Khairat village in Raigadh, Maharashtra last month. Currently, 60 XO laptops, as these low-cost laptops are known, are deployed in India. RCom, other individual volunteers and the OLPC jointly funded these laptops.

One laptop per child finds way into India