The $100 laptop project pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte has again come under fire for failing to address the need for basic communications and education infrastructure in developing countries first.

Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project to distribute the wind-up Linux laptops to children in developing countries was dealt a blow last week when India ditched plans to order a million of the devices, saying classrooms and teachers are needed more urgently than “fancy tools”.

And although Nigeria has placed an order for a million of the $100 laptops, IT chiefs believe the laudable project is a “leap too far”, with two-thirds of’s 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel saying the project is “fundamentally flawed”.

Nick Clark, director of IT services at Tower Hamlets College, said a computer is of little use unless connected to the internet.

He said: “A wind-up laptop may keep going but what is it going to be used for without the communications infrastructure? It may be better to invest in that infrastructure and provide a cheap mobile phone with browser to access it. But then there’s the question of who will pay for the calls.”

Chris Broad, head of IS&T at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, added: “Giving equipment or even building a school does not contribute to educating the children unless the trained teachers and infrastructure is also there. India is right.”

Some were more critical of the project. Russell Altendorff, IT director at the London Business School, said: “Professor Negroponte and the US in general must realise that many countries will treat their largesse as imperialism by another means. They mean well but they really have to respect the capabilities of other countries to make their own way. More realistic trade agreements would be a better way of helping the third world.”

Alastair Behenna, CIO at Harvey Nash, said the $100 laptop is “simply ahead of its time” rather than fundamentally flawed but Paul Broome, IT director at, disagreed.

Broome said: “How can it be wrong to offer such a tool? Much depends on how it will fit into any country’s education policy and curriculum.”

Others may also point out the fact that India’s home-grown PC manufacturer HCL can produce a desktop computer for almost the same price as the $100 laptop.

Do you think the $100 laptop is a good idea for developing countries or fundamentally flawed? Let us know and post a Reader Comment below.

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Russell Altendorff, IT director, London Business School
Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
Les Boggia, IT division head, Carole Nash Insurance
Chris Broad, head of IS&T, UKAEA
Paul Broome, IT director,
Nick Clark, director of IT services, Tower Hamlets College
Colin Moore, head of IS, Department for Education and Skills
Rory O’Boyle, head of IT, The Football Association
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
David Supple, director of IT and creative services, Ecotec

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