It's a philanthropy project titled "Give One. Get One." You buy a $399 laptop computer, and they donate one to a child in a 3rd world country. Actually, you donate a laptop to a child in a 3rd world country, and they'll give you another one for yourself for free. The deadline for purchase/donation is December 31st.
It's an interesting idea. Here's the link.
I am definitely intrigued by the concept. On the outset, it seems like a wonderful philanthropy project. The mission is an important one---"to empower the children of developing countries to learn"---but the method---"by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child" may or may not be flawed. I'm certainly not poo-pooing the idea, I just have some questions and I'm not yet finding the answers.
My most important concern is whether or not the method will actually achieve the goal. Will these laptops empower school-age children around the world? particularly children in impoverished countries where there's not even running water let alone electricity and batteries to operate laptops? Or are there better, more cost-efficient, more intelligent, and culturally-appropriate ways to achieve the same goal? And how does this method translate across the globe? Clearly a laptop donation will be viewed differently depending on where you live. Not all cultural groups are going to view the device, the technology, the gift, in the same way.
You might guess, and hope, that the wonderful people who put this project together have already thought about my question. It is a seriously impressive team of researchers, techies, academicians, and such, from respected institutions like MIT and Harvard. However, well-intentioned, intelligent, thoughtful people have made such mistakes before.
I remember a story told to me when I was a graduate student in anthropology. My advisor, let's call her LA, had done her PhD field research in anthropology in Zambia. In the small farming community where she did her research, an international development aid agency had decided to help local farmers increase their crop production. This aid agency was filled with intelligent, thoughtful, well-educated, do-gooders. They weren't stupid, and they had the alphabet soup after their names to prove it. And importantly, they were well-intentioned. They believed that if they helped this community improve their crop yield that less people would starve. Greater crop production equals more food and more money.
It was a good goal. But their method? Well, their method was a bit flawed.
What did they do?
They donated tractors. Large pieces of machinery designed to help farmers tend their fields.
What LA observed over the two years she lived there, was that these tractors were virtually never used in the fields. Instead, they were being used as taxicabs. Yep, big old, gas-guzzling, expensive tractors were being used to transport people from point A to point B. And the farmers/taxi drivers who were driving the tractors were charging their passengers a fare to do it. Apparently, the local people thought this was better use of the equipment than using the tractors in their fields. And I'm sure they believed this was a better income-generator, or at least knew that it was a more immediate income generator than waiting until harvest for some extra crops and cash.
My point is that we may be intelligent. We may be educated. We may believe we are doing a good thing. But sometimes our Western ideas do not translate well in other places.
This may be the case with the laptops. But it may not be. I'm hoping it's not.
In any case, these are some interesting laptops. Check them out here.