There was a lot of media coverage this weekend about the unveiling in India of the the world’s cheapest ‘laptop’ which, media reports say, will cost $35 and is ‘likely’ to go down to $10.

Designed by the respected Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi the device is not a laptop at all but rather an iPad-like touchscreen slate.

I’m always fascinated to learn of innovations that promise affordable access to ICT in education.

However (just like the annual media announcements of Cesc Fabregas’ imminent departure for Barcelona) I tend to examine the small print rather than the headlines.

Don't believe the hype

I am sceptical about whether Indian schoolchildren will get their hands on these machines for $35 and I am sceptical about the claim, made in the Guardian, that 110 million schoolchildren will receive them this year before they begin providing them to college students next year.

As for the price falling to $10 I am a died-in-the-wool naysayer.

I remember the 2001 announcement of the Indian Simputer (a PDA-like hand-held device) which was going to revolutionise education for ‘$200′ but which actually cost up to $480 and had fizzled out by 2005 .

I also remember the January 2005 announcement by Nicholas Negroponte at the World Economic Forum of the “$100 laptop project”. I enthusiastically supported the project’s educational model when I was interviewed by the BBC, as well as the initiative’s intent but, in a move considered almost sacreligious at the time, I went on record to say that delivering their announced specifications for $100 by 2006 was highly improbable.

..and then last year there was the $99 CherryPAL which now has a long list of unhappy customers and was rated an ‘F’ by the Better Business Bureau.

In the future educational technology will be increasingly functionally integrated, mobile, and prices will fall ……….. but will 2011 see 110 million Indian schoolchildren with their own wifi, touchscreen slate, infor $35?

Nay say I.


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