Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Political Digital Drivers

Will governments make the digital difference and if they do, will publishers rise to the challenge? We wrote in our recent report ‘Brave New World’ about the Chinese government plans to issue 165 million students with ebook readers and in doing so obviate the need to buy textbooks. One would assume that the US or Singapore would already have all schoolchilderen connected to the internet but surprisingly they don’t. We expect it from emerging powers such as China but we now hear about other countries following similar paths.

Libya could now become the first country to provide every school-age child with a laptop computer and internet connection. In a £134m deal with One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), an American non-profit group, Libya will acquire 1.2m computers with internet connection.

Computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC, aims to provide laptops for children in developing countries that cost $100 (£54) each. This are specially designed and will have a rugged case and a sealed rubber keyboard to keep out dust and water. Article continues

In an effort to eliminate the parts most likely to go wrong, the designers have dispensed with a cooling fan and replaced the conventional hard disc with a flash drive. Costs are further reduced by using free software and only requiring 10% of the power of normal laptops.

Is Libya alone? No, OLPC has also reached tentative purchase agreements with Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria and Thailand.

This initiative demonstrates that the technology is available and that a number of governments have the will. However, there is now a need to provide the content and learning tools that will make the difference. The question is whether the commercial publishing model can be balance with the political one?

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