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Another push for netbooks in Africa

By using cheap netbooks running Ubuntu, coupled with IBM's cloud computing platforms, businesses in Africa that could not otherwise afford computers for each of their employees will have access to really inexpensive computing. Can this approach also take the place of OLPC in emerging markets?

Usually when I'm writing about netbooks in Africa, they are coming from OLPC or a local OEM selling Intel Classmates. Now, however, IBM and Canonical (the company that brings us Ubuntu) are bringing a different strategy to the emerging African market. By using cheap netbooks running Ubuntu, coupled with IBM's cloud computing platforms, businesses that could not otherwise afford computers for each of their employees will have access to really inexpensive computing.

So why do I bring this up in the context of Ed Tech? Because the same approach can be applied to schools in emerging markets where 1:1 initiatives (or even simply computing labs) struggle to get off the ground due to lack of infrastructure and, more importantly, lack of funds. Canonical is already an Ecosystem partner in Intel's Classmate PC initiatives and it would hardly be a stretch to apply IBM's cloud on the back end to Ubuntu-powered Classmates in kids' hands.

According to the Triangle Business Journal,

The IBM-Canonical software package also will offer e-mail, word-processing, spreadsheet, communication and social networking capabilities. The availability of the cloud- and Web-based applications through netbooks running on Linux will save businesses an estimated 50 percent per seat compared to installing a Windows-based PC, IBM said.

Is this another nail in OLPC's coffin or will their innovative designs and potential advancements in 1:1 pedagogy be enough for them to be a player in this field? We'll watch the education space carefully now that cheap, Linux-powered netbooks are becoming mainstream instead of a novelty from American academics.