May 25, 2005

The $100 Laptop

Just read about Nicholas "Being Digital" Negroponte's project to put a $100 Linux laptop into every third-world child's grubby hands:

There's some incredible insights into the economics involved:

About half the price of a current laptop computer is accounted for by marketing, sales, distribution channels, and profit, so removing those aspects will provide big cost savings, Negroponte says.


"The rest of the cost is there to support an absolutely obese, overweight, and unreliable operating system. If you get rid of that and start with a thin, tiny operating system you can do an awful lot," Negroponte says.

He ain't referring to Tiger, is he?

This is a fantastic example of the "Base of the Pyramid" concept--that by enriching the lives of people who live on the low end of the economic scale, like people living in shanty towns (or inner-city ghettos?) you create the ability for those folks to purchase upmarket goods, which for them would be the cheap crap at the dollar store or WalMart. I'm sure some MBA in Bentonville is salivating over the thought of getting a few more billion people into every SuperStore.

Still though, even the project's home page doesn't cover one big drawback: People who live in slums don't always value education over other things. What's to stop someone (like the kid's parents) from selling the Ministry of Education-provided laptop for food--or drugs? (And in the shantytowns, "drugs" could more likely be meds to keep someone from dying of disease rather than stuff to get high).

A lot of kids I knew growing up didn't think of education as their ticket out of the 'hood. It sucked--there were lots of kids who were really smart and could've been "contributors to society" if they focused on getting up and out instead of better ways to rip people off or sell drugs.

And $100 is a lot of money at the base of the pyramid. If it's equivalent to a couple months' wages, it might be pretty tempting for someone to sell Junior's laptop. But maybe if they get wired up, they can sell it on eBay...

Posted by jameshom at May 25, 2005 12:58 PM | TrackBack
Comments are turned off
All content copyright © 1999 - 2010 James Hom