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The OLPC $100 Laptop & Grameen Bangladesh

Posted on November 18, 2005

Continuing my series on how tech and finance can enable to poorest of the poor to pull themselves out of poverty I would like to talk about the OLPC (one laptop per child) $100 laptop. The machine was unveiled at the UN summit in Tunis just the other day and it is impressive. It boasts a 500 MHz processor, mesh networking capabilities and four USB ports. It can also be charged up by utilizing the yellow crank (see pictures below). This was designed for countries with unreliable electricity.

The OLPC laptops will be paid for by the governments of the countries whos people will receive them. The governments will then hand them out to children. However, an interesting thing to mention is that the children will own the laptops. They are not going to be on loan from the government. The thought is that the children will take better care of them if they own them as opposed to them being “rentals.”

I was very happy to see that the Egyptian government was one of the first to order some of these for their people. Having spent some time studying in Cairo I can attest to the fact that there are people that need them. I met so many intelligent people in my time over there who, if they just had the means, could really create something special. Now, keep in mind, I studied in Cairo, a metropolitan area, and I still saw many people that could use these laptops. In rural Egypt I am sure there are multiples more.

Along the same lines I read a post in the Unitus blog about Grameen Bank Bangladesh. The piece was fascinating in that I never realized a microfinance institution could be so large. They have over 4.48 million borrowers and a staff of 13,492! As far as building community is concerned, the bank has issued 5,773 higher education loans, 619,000 home loans and issues 19,000 scholarships a year.

All of this shows that we can help the poor to help themselves through finance and technology if we continue to think outside the box. I hope the next time I return to Egypt, and there will be a next time, I see a little green laptop in the hands of every child empowering them to create freely and to think of their bright futures which can now come to fruition due to higher education loans provided by microfinance institutions.

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2 Comments so far
  1. Mandy Arlond April 12, 2007 7:24 am

    I’ve seen pieces on TV about Mr. Mr Yunus prior to his winning the Noble. What is incredible is how completely SIMPLE his concept is. Why is it that over the last 50 years no one has been able to succeed with micro loans. I think his personality is an important part of the 98% repayment rate.

    There are many people who can take notes from his work, including those lending to under privilaged in rich countries. However, the communities that have made this work succeed for him is not quite the same in inner-city UK or US, so we’ll see if it can work behond the 3rd world.

  2. Daniel October 4, 2007 7:05 am

    It’s exciting to see that governments are getting involved and that we are able to help the poor, but not only help them. In this manner, we are helping them to help themselves.