I was excited to hear another story on NPR about the pending introduction of the so-called $100 laptop to the U.S. The computer is not yet really in the range of $100 – really it will be closer to $400 – but regardless, from the reviews I have heard it is a pretty robust computer for a pretty low price. It will definitely put other laptop manufacturers on their toes as it enters the competitive market. Additionally, the use of open source software on these machines and the technology to allow them to network with each other should put Microsoft and the internet providers on alert. So, as per all the hype, hopefully Nicholas Negroponte’s “One Laptop per Child” program truly does represent a victory in the battle against the Digital Divide. Maybe we can get these laptops into poor rural libraries as well as classrooms.

Of course, as critics of the program in third world countries have pointed out, many classrooms are still in dire need of pencils and books and are not quite at the point of being able to receive much benefit from laptops. Many of the educators in these countries have probably never worked on a computer. Which made me think about the basic information needs that sometimes get lost in the great technology shuffle. Cheap online publications and open publishing models will not replace the need for print journals (The Free Range Librarian recently had a good post about the need for small literary journals to continue to publish in print – reading them online is JUST NOT THE SAME EXPERIENCE). Poor libraries still need new books in addition to an influx of technology, and not just donations of outdated materials from wealthier communities. The bottom line is that while technology (particularly cheap technology) is a wonderful tool, it will never replace traditional information tools.

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