3 minute read

I’ll believe it when I see it, but the Times of India is reporting that the promised $10 laptop is closer to a reality, but right now it’s as real as the crank on the original XO design.

Who knew cardboard was so exciting?

I’m growing weary of promises for new / better / cheaper technologies for ICT4D - whether it’s the pure-touch-screen tomfoolery of the XO-2 or new designs from India (remember that they’ve been promising this since at least late 2006, and the XO-2 has been a diversionary tactic starting in 2007 and formally announced May of last year.

We’re missing the point here, as usual. ICT4D is not about the ICT, it’s about the “D” - Development. Use whatever technology is best suited for the problem at hand, don’t wait on the next big thing or spend money to develop it, at least starting out. This is why mobile phones are such an attractive tool - amazing install base, even in the developing world, low cost, low-power, but provides limited connectivity and 2-way (limited) data flow.

The $10 laptop?

The tools already exist. Yes, the XO-1, being specifically designed for harsher environments is a great addition to the toolchest, but not by itself a reason to start a new ICT4D program - just a better tool to use if there’s a need for it. The XO-2 and the $10 “laptop” (which sounds more like a USB harddrive) might also add tools. They might flop or never coalesce (or meet their price point goals!).

As technologists in development, we must dampen our tendency to get excited over the technology and instead use our knowledge of all the technology options (not just the newest and shiniest), and get excited instead over the development challenges. Luckily, there’s a lot to be excited on.

So, can we now stop gushing over vaporware announcements and get back to work?