Libya may be first buyer of $100 laptops

Qaddafi interested in purchasing computers for 1.2 million schoolchildren, which would make once-ostracized nation the world's leader in connecting kids to the Internet.

The warming of relations with Libya and the U.S. has made inroads for nonprofits, including an agreement between the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and the Libyan government to supply $100 laptops to all 1.2 million Libyan schoolchildren by June 2008, reports The New York Times.

Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC founder, was in Tripoli to discuss the project with Libyan officials. Negroponte's aim is to provide inexpensive wireless laptops to children in developing nations. The machines are set to go into mass productoin next year. Negroponte is currently making deals with leaders of developing countries. He met with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, in August.

"When I met with Qaddafi, it had all the mystique and trimmings expected: middle of the desert, in a tent, 50 degrees C. etc.," Mr. Negroponte, who was traveling to Asia on Tuesday, wrote in an email message. "It took him very little time to find O.L.P.C. appealing as an idea."

It appears that the idea for supplying every child in Libya with a laptop meshed with Qaddafi's political ambitions for creating a more open Libya and becoming an African leader. There was even some talk of having Libya purchase laptops for poorer African nations like Chad, Niger and Rwanda.

If this project is implemented, Libya will become the first nation in the world where all school-age children are connected to the Internet through educational computers. "The U.S. and Singapore are not even close," said Negroponte.

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