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India promises $10 laptops for students

Can a laptop be manufactured for $10? The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project created by Nicholas Negroponte and the MIT Media Lab has struggled to keep its promise to provide $100 laptops to school kids in developing countries (In fact, the cheapest one goes for around $188). But the Indian government says it will distribute laptops to students throughout India that each cost less than a movie ticket in New York City.

Too good to be true? Afraid so. BBC News today reported that the announcement – widely reported by new pubs over the weekend – has since been "corrected" to $100 per laptop.

But even at $100 a pop, the price tag would still be the cheapest for a school computer since Negroponte and his colleagues launched OLPC in 2005. Since then, NComputing launched its "thin client" model that allows schools to extend the computing power of one PC out to several PCs (at a cost well over $100 per desktop) and chipmaker Intel has helped bring to market the Classmate netbook PC, which starts at $300. Other computer makers, including Asus and HP, are flooding into the netbook market promising cheaper laptops, but they won't touch the $100 price point for some time.

Still, India's National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) program offers more than just laptops. The program is expected to deliver high-speed Internet access to schools that will allow students and teachers to download a variety of online resources, including textbooks published by Macmillan (Scientific American's parent company), Tata McGraw Hill, Prentice-Hall and Vikas Publishing, the Times of India reports. Much of the content will be delivered to students and teachers through the "Sakshat" portal (a password-protected Web site that aggregates all program-related information in one place).

ICT, intended to boost higher education enrollment in the country by 5 percent over the next five years, includes plans to extend computer infrastructure and connectivity out to more than 18,000 schools in India. The Indian government plans to subsidize 25 percent of broadband connectivity costs for private and state government colleges.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/Lajos Répási

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