When I first saw Nicholas Negroponte’s one-hundred dollar crank-powered laptop, I didn’t get it. Sure, it was cool, an interesting gadget like those Soviet era crank-powered flashlights at Restoration Hardware. And then I read this:
…Ghana, a western Africa nation in which adolescents represent almost half of the population, provides one example,
Researchers lead by Diana L.G. Borzekowski of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed online experiences among 778 teens, ages 15 to 18, in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
Two-thirds of the 600 youngsters who attended high school said they had previously gone online, as did about half of the 178 teens who didn’t attend school. Among all Internet users, the largest proportion-53 percent-had sought online health information on topics including AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition, exercise, drug use, and pregnancy. Science News: July 17,2006 Vol. 169, No. 24 pg. 378
AIDS is ravaging Africa and Ghana is no exception. According to The Ghana AIDS Commission, 160,000 children are now orphans due to AIDS. These kids are on their own to figure things out. It seems Nicolas Negroponte’s green machine is poised to make a huge impact.
Crank-powered, outfitted with durable flash memory and a multi-use LED screen, the green machine is ready for inhospitable environments. The machine encourages collaboration between users by running open source software allowing users to independently modify the code and then submit it to the group for approval. One of the most exciting features is the built in mesh networking capability. This allows one machine to share a scarce Internet connection with other green machines allowing each machine to act a hub so more and more machines have access.
UPDATE: I just received the August 2006 issue of Wired which has an article on designer Yves Behar and his latest version of the laptop. The crank is gone, which is too bad. Instead, it is replaced with a battery designed to have a five year life span. Check out this article and if you yearn for more visit One Laptop per Child.