New York, 22 October 2007 (UN Headquarters) – The United Nations’ senior-most diplomat responsible for the world’s most vulnerable countries has lauded the persistent efforts of American architect and computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte to make available a low cost, durable and simple to use laptop to children in the developing world. The initiative is the brainchild of Professor Negroponte, founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child non-profit association, currently on leave from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was co-founder and director of the MIT Media Laboratory.

 

Speaking at a special demonstration of the so-called “$100” laptop organised by his office at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Cheikh Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) praised professor Negroponte for defying the sceptics and bringing nearer to fruition what had sounded to many people like a dream when the idea of a “$100 laptop” was first mooted.

 

Mr. Diarra said it was especially important to understand the potential to bridging the information gap between the rich and the poor that the laptop represented. It was equally important for professor Negroponte and his partners in the “One Laptop per Child” project to understand the concerns and questions that Member States may have about the initiative. While there were many challenges that needed to be overcome for the vision of one laptop per child can be achieved, Mr. Diarra said it was clear that the initiative could make a major contribution to the socio-economic development of the most vulnerable countries. 

 

One such initial problem was that of affordability, especially for the poorest of countries, Mr. Diarra said. “Even if the cost was only $100 per child, that is more than most developing countries, especially the Least Developed Countries, can afford. In many LDCs for example, the amount spent on a child’s education in primary school is as low as $5 a year, when teachers’ salaries are excluded,” he stated. Even in many Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States that were not LDCs, expenditure on a child’s education was as low as $40 per child per year. In this context, asked if even a $100 laptop was affordable.

 

The “One Laptop per Child” special demonstration was also attended by the chairpersons of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Least Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS.

 

The laptop packs several innovations including a sunlight readable display so that it can be used outside. It has no moving parts, can be powered by solar, foot-pump or pull-string powered chargers and is housed in a waterproof case. Presentations on the experience with the One Laptop per Child project in Uruguay, and Peru were respectively made by Miguel Brechner, and Oscar Manuel Becerra.

Professor Negroponte’s project launched the “give one, get one” scheme that allowed individuals to purchase two laptops at a pre-determined price after the project’s founder admitted that concrete orders from the governments of developing nations had not always followed verbal agreements. One laptop would be sent to the buyer whilst a child in the developing world would receive the second machine.

 
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UN-OHRLLS/40/2007
 

For further information, please contact Derrick Ed Bwalya, Information Officer, Office of the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS). Tel: +1-917-367-2471. E-mail: bwalyad@un.org Website: www.un.org/ohrlls/