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by Mike Zazaian October 11, 2006 - 12:37pm, 7 Comments

A prototype of the OLPC laptop

One Laptop Per Child, a US non-profit aimed at providing dirt-cheap laptops to children around the world, made an agreement with Libya today that would put 1.2 million computers into the country’s schools by 2008.

One Laptop Per Child Founder Nicholas Negroponte met with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi in August to discuss the matter. After a month of deliberation el-Qaddafi has finally decided to go ahead with the laptop initiative, with Negroponte and el-Qaddafi now in discussions over the financing of the project. Said Negroponte:

When I met with Qaddafi, it had all the mystique and trimmings expected: middle of the desert, in a tent, 50 degrees Celsius. It took him (el-Qaddafi) very little time to find O.L.P.C. appealing as an idea.

Negroponte founded One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in 2005 while working as a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the past year OLPC has developed a child-friendly laptop that requires little power to run, and uses a highly efficient processor from Advanced Micro Devices. When Microsoft refused to remit copies of any Windows operating system to the OLPC at a price that would keep the computers’ costs near $150 US, Negroponte decided to implement a free Linux computing platform.

With a computer in the hands of every child by 2008, Libya will be the first country to connect all of its students to the internet. The U.S. and Singapore are not even close, said Negroponte. One Laptop Per Child has also reached tentative purchase agreements with the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria and Thailand.

Each computer will feature a wireless connection, a built-in video camera, and a lithium-ion battery that can hold a charge for eight hours. In instances where an outlet is not available, a unique hand-crank on the side of each computer will allow students to charge the battery for short-term usage. Initial prices for the computers will be slightly below $150, with a small number of test models from Taiwanese computer manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc. being distributed by December of 2006. If all goes well with the test run Quanta will initiate mass production of the computers early in 2007, lowering prices prior to large-scale distribution in the summer of 2007.

[via The New York Times]