India says no to Negroponte's $100 laptop

The Indian government seems unlikely to invest in the one laptop per child (OLPC) program championed by MIT's Nicholas Negroponte after its Education secretary delivered a damning assessment of progress so far.

India had been discussing whether to buy a million $100 laptops for use across the country but in a letter to a colleague leaked to the press Education secretary Sudeep Banerjee raised doubts about the viability of the program. He wrote that the laptops may well end up costing nearly $200 apiece and were not even out of the prototype stage.

"[The program] may actually be detrimental to the growth of creative and analytical abilities of the child," Banerjee wrote, in an extract published in the Times of India.

"Even if the idea was acceptable, we can't visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyond the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools."

The doubts stem from a visit made by an Indian inspector to the OLPC in May, after which he recommended India's non-participation. He found that testing of the open source operating system had not yet started and that once the prices of batteries and other extras was factored in the laptops would end up costing around $200.

He also found that the laptops would be very difficult to upgrade, since the motherboard would need to be entirely removed and replaced, at a cost of around 40 per cent of the purchase cost.