CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — The chasm between Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project's lofty goal — putting computers in the hands of children across the developing world — and its actual achievements is staggeringly wide. Instead of millions of computers, it's struggling to put in an order for a hundred thousand or so. And rather than commanding larger orders from third-world governments, Negroponte is now trying to get first-world consumers to donate laptops instead. A speech by Brazilian culture minister Gilberto Gil Moreira at the EmTech conference gives a pretty good idea why no laptops per child is today's reality.
Nicholas Negroponte of the One Laptop Per Child initiative is waking up to the business realities of equipping millions with low cost hardware: "I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written." No kidding. Some degree? A commitment for three million down to no orders for the production of 120,000 cheap laptops is some degree. To spur sales, the low-cost laptop will be offered to North American consumers for $399. The price includes an additional laptop donation for charity. But come on: Wal-Mart sells computers for less.