The New York Times is reporting that One Laptop Per Child has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Libya, adding another potential implementing partner country to OLPC's list.
Arising out of an August meeting between OLPC's Nicholas Negroponte and the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qaddafi, the MOU apparently details an agreement of 1.2 million computers, one server per school, a team of technical advisers to help set up the system, satellite internet service and other infrastructure for $250 million dollars.
Or a total cost of $208 dollars per laptop. Yes, that's a 100 percent price increase over the initial $100 dollar laptop guesstimate by Negroponte and our best measurement yet of the actual full cost of 2B1 Children's Machine implementation.
Libyan school children will not start using the OLPC 2B1 until mid-2007 at the earliest, but when they do, what information and access will they have? The CIA World Fact Book says there are currently about 47 Internet hosts and 205,000 Internet users in Libya. They will soon be dwarfed by 1.2 million children – or will they?
Would Colonel el-Qaddafi (Gadhafi) really let the next generation of Libyans have unfettered access to satellite Internet? To a fully editable and uncensored Wikipedia subsets? Somehow I think not. I even wonder what might a One Encyclopedia Per Libyan Child have as the image for the letter "G"?
And I find the following quote form the New York Times article to be very interesting:
The idea appealed to the Libyan leader, according to Mr. Negroponte, because it fit into his political agenda of creating a more open Libya and becoming an African leader. The two men also discussed the possibility of Libya’s financing the purchase of laptops for a group of poorer African nations like Chad, Niger and Rwanda.
I bet Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi would like to supply computers to the children of neighboring countries. It would be a more internationally palatable way to influence their politics and gain access to their resources than his outright invasion Chad's Aozou Strip or funding of terrorists abroad, including the bombing of UTA and La Belle discos, and Pan AM Flight 103.
Reguarless, amid all the hype about this agreement, don't forget one small detail: this is a MOU not a Purchase Order and much can change between signing a MOU and the first OLPC 2B1 Children's Machine devilvery.