Thursday, November 17, 2005
for the World
Summit in Tunisia unveils Negroponte's
$100 laptop and other ideas for plugging in the rest of world.
By Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- A U.N. technology
summit was focused Thursday on bringing more communications, including
Internet access, to developing countries where the cost has been
too high and the technology too low-tech.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Senegalese President Abdoulaye
Wade were among the leaders scheduled to address the World Summit
on the Information Society, which ends on Friday.
At the same time, several companies
and organizations were unveiling their plans to bring the world
closer and, in a sense, narrow the digital divide, by providing
laptops that cost just US$100 (euro85) to portable, satellite-based
radios that can pull in international programming from just about
More than 16,000 people from 176
countries are attending the three-day summit.
Delegates also said bridging the
digital divide was more than just creating better access, lower
prices and improved bandwidth.
Pakistan's Mahmood Kahn said increasing
access to communications can help improve relations between regions
"Information is not just an
economic tool," Kahn told delegates in the main hall. "We
need its infinite power to combat the rising tide of prejudice
and hatred ... We will use the Internet and other media to heal
wounds, to remove misperceptions, to promote dialogue, to foster
trust between diverse communities and to reverse the onslaught
of extremism and terrorism."
Elsewhere, the focus on learning was prevalent at the summit.
Microsoft Corp., the world's largest maker of software, unveiled
a new network of learning centers in Tunisia that will train people
to be teachers in technology.
The effort is part of a joint push
with UNESCO to make technology easier to understand and, ultimately,
to spread its reach across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
"We welcome this project for
its scope and potential," said Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO's
president of Microsoft International, told The Associated Press
that the year-old project has gained steam and the 200 centers it
plans to open in Tunisia will be replicated elsewhere.
"The InfoYouth Center represents the type of program that effectively
addresses education and development issues to date," he said.
Late Wednesday, a text-book
sized laptop boasting wireless network access and a hand-crank to
provide electricity was unveiled by Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman
of MIT Media Lab.
The machines will sell
for US$100, making them accessible to millions of school-aged children
worldwide, he said.
"These robust, versatile machines will enable children to become
more active in their own learning," U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan told reporters after the machine was unveiled.
Negroponte said the aim
is to have governments or donors pick up the cost of the machines
with the children who receive them having full ownership.
The first shipments are
due in February or March and will go to Brazil, Thailand, Egypt
Negroponte said he expects 1 million of them to be sold to those
countries. He did not say who would build the machine, which will
cost US$110 to make, but at least five are considering bids to do
He said the laptop, lime
green in color, would run on an open source operating system, such
Negroponte said the laptops
could become available on the commercial market, but at a higher
He said they were colored
lime green, with a yellow hand crank, to make them appealing to
children and to fend off potential thieves.