$100 computer for children unveiled by UN
UN news releases
November 17, 2005
As the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) continued in Tunis last night, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan unveiled a prototype of a cheap and rugged $100 laptop for children, as part of the Summit’s goal of giving poor communities access to the benefits of information technologies and networks.
“When they start reaching the hands of the world’s children, these robust and versatile machines will enable kids to become more active in their own learning,” Mr. Annan said. “Children will be able to learn by doing, not just through instruction or rote memorization. And they will be able to open a new front in their education: peer-to-peer learning.”
The low-energy green laptops, powered by a windup crank, are the key to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative introduced by Mr. Annan and Professor Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.
The laptops are to be financed through domestic resources, donors and possibly other arrangements, at no cost to the recipients themselves. They are to be distributed through education ministries using established textbook channels, Mr. Annan said.
Calling the laptops an “impressive technical achievement,” the Secretary-General said that they were able to do almost everything that larger, more expensive computers could do, unlocking the “magic with each child, within each scientist, scholar or plain citizen-in-the-making.” He urged governments at WSIS to incorporate the initiative into their efforts to build an Information Society.
The OLPC is a partner project in the Connect the World initiative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which held a roundtable yesterday in which political, business, and development leaders pledged their commitment to expand the benefit of information and communications technologies (ICT) to people all over the world by 2015.
Also today, at various other forums at WSIS, other UN specialized agencies addressed their areas of expertise today. Among them, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, underlined the key role played by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in meteorology and early warning for natural disasters. He offered to expand the use of WMO’s Global Telecommunication System.
Google, MIT support $100 laptop for the world’s poorest children October 6, 2005
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Microsoft Corporation, in cooperation with the Youth Observatory of the Tunisian Ministry of Youth, today inaugurated the InfoYouth Centre, a regional community technology centre for North Africa, designed to provide as many as 50,000 youth with access to, and skills training in, information technologies.
Also organized by UNESCO, in collaboration with a diverse range of partners, a workshop on ICT and Persons with Disabilities was attended by Tunisia’s first lady, Leïla Ben Ali.
At another event, called Communication for All, Ericsson and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) spoke of the importance of increasing mobile phone access into isolated areas. Two billion people still live in areas with no mobile phone coverage, which is easier to expand than hard-wired connections, they said.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Association for Progressive Communication jointly held a meeting to introduce the Multimedia Training Kit that assists community media trainers in rural areas.
Other programmes discussed the importance of ICT for health systems, small business, postal services and many other areas.
One two-day event, the World Electronic Media Forum, concerning the role of electronic media in the digital age, closed last night. Addressing the final session, Secretary-General Annan urged media practitioners to use their influence to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets for greatly reducing poverty and other world ills by 2015.
“Day in, day out, where do we find timely alarms about injustice, opportunities to forge connections across great distances, or simple entertainment after a long day’s work in factory, field or office tower? On television, on the radio and, increasingly, on the Internet,” Mr. Annan said.
“Today, the world needs you to use that influence, even more than you do already, to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” he said, noting that media had already found creative ways to address the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
In his statement, Mr. Annan also addressed the issue of freedom of expression in electronic media, which had become a major concern of WSIS.
“I will continue to press Governments to uphold their responsibility both to create conditions in which journalists can do their job safely, and to bring to justice those who commit crimes against them,” he said.
SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS IMMENSE STATURE, INFLUENCE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN REMARKS TO TUNIS FORUM
Following are the remarks delivered today by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the closing session of the World Electronic Media Forum in Tunis:
I commend the broadcasting unions, UN entities and other partners, including the Swiss Government, whose contributions have made possible this second edition of the World Electronic Media Forum.
Electronic media are at the very centre of modern life.
When crisis strikes, to whom do people turn first for information and insight? Electronic media.
At election time, or when societies wrestle with pressing issues, who offers the most accessible public forum for dialogue and debate? Electronic media.
And day in, day out, where do we find timely alarms about injustice, opportunities to forge connections across great distances, or simple entertainment after a long day’s work in factory, field or office tower? On television, on the radio and, increasingly, on the Internet.
Despite all the things you are criticized for — sensationalism, frivolity, the use of electronic media to spread pornography and hatred — you continue to hold a unique position of immense stature and influence.
Today, the world needs you to use that influence, even more than you do already, to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Already, through the Global Media AIDS Initiative, some of the world’s leading broadcasters have devoted substantial time and space to the issue: training their reporters and producers to cover the epidemic; supporting HIV/AIDS-related shows, films and documentaries; and making programmes and materials on HIV/AIDS available to other outlets. This is a fine example of global citizenship.
I hope we can work together to find similarly creative ways to address other Millennium Development Goals. I know that the MDGs as such can be difficult to cover. The language of development economics does not always resonate with the general public. Moreover, the Goals may sound like other promises of years past that were not kept, prompting questions as to why these new ones should be taken any more seriously.
But the MDGs are different. They are specific and measurable; they cover the most basic aspects of people’s everyday lives; and they have sparked unprecedented mobilization on the part of civil society, including remarkable street demonstrations and other efforts. Broadcasters were instrumental in galvanizing international support in the aftermath of last year’s Indian Ocean tsunami, and have been equally active in covering last month’s earthquake in Pakistan. I urge you to find the words and images that will draw attention to the silent, daily tsunami of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation.
The United Nations will do its part. We defend, as a matter of principle, article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines freedom of expression and of the media. It is my hope that such freedoms will receive a boost from holding a Summit here in the Arab world, where the number of websites and satellite television networks is multiplying, and where many people are yearning for greater freedom and more accountable government.
The United Nations also defends your right, as journalists, to be free from physical intimidation and harm. While conflict and war provide the backdrop to much of the violence against the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the vast majority of journalists killed since 1995 did not die in crossfire, but were deliberately hunted down and murdered, often in direct reprisal for their reporting. I will continue to press Governments to uphold their responsibility both to create conditions in which journalists can do their job safely, and to bring to justice those who commit crimes against them.
The “Broadcasters’ Declaration”, issued by the first World Electronic Media Forum two years ago, signalled your commitment to help to build an information society that enriches and empowers all people. I look forward to receiving your “message” to this second phase of the Summit, which I will transmit to the Member States. I am pleased to know that you want to continue the media forum beyond Tunis, so that the media can play its part in implementing the road map that will emerge from this Summit.
In closing, let me also ask for your help in publicizing the outcome, not just of this Summit, but of the 2005 World Summit held two months ago in New York. There are a host of stories still to be told about our changing world, and about the new United Nations that is coming into being through a rigorous process of change and renewal.
ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD’ INITIATIVE MOVING EXPRESSION OF GLOBAL SOLIDARITY, CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS AT TUNIS MEDIA EVENT
Following are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the “One Laptop per Child” media event, held today in Tunis:
Some inventions are ahead of their time.
Others are perfectly of their time.
Still others seem so obvious and natural that once people hear about them, they wonder why it took so long for them to come into being.
It is a rare invention indeed that manages to be all those things at once.
But Nicholas Negroponte, his team at the world-renowned MIT Media Lab, and their partners have given us just such a breakthrough.
The $100 laptop is inspiring in many respects.
It is an impressive technical achievement, able to do almost everything that larger, more expensive computers can do.
It holds the promise of major advances in economic and social development.
But perhaps most important is the true meaning of “one laptop per child”. This is not just a matter of giving a laptop to each child, as if bestowing on them some magical charm. The magic lies within — within each child, within each scientist-, scholar- or just-plain-citizen-in-the-making. This initiative is meant to bring it forth into the light of day.
The laptops are to be financed through domestic resources, donors and possibly other arrangements, at no cost to the recipients themselves. They are to be distributed through education ministries using established textbook channels.
When they start reaching the hands of the world’s children, these robust and versatile machines will enable kids to become more active in their own learning. Children will be able to learn by doing, not just through instruction or rote memorization. And they will be able to open a new front in their education: peer-to-peer learning.
Studies and experience have shown repeatedly that kids take to computers easily — not just in the comfort of warm, well-lit, rich-country schools and living rooms, but also in the slums and remote rural areas of the developing world. We must reach all these kids. Their societies, and the world at large, simply cannot do without their contributions and engagement. As Professor Negroponte and others have said, “The greatest natural resource of any country is its children”.
I thank all involved in “One Laptop per Child” for this truly moving expression of global solidarity and corporate citizenship. I also commend the International Telecommunication Union for its role in making this event possible. And I urge all the leaders and stakeholders participating in this World Summit to do their part in ensuring that this initiative is fully incorporated into our efforts to build an information society.
This article includes a series of modified news releases from the UN.