<!--:es-->Developing nations to test new $150 laptops<!--:-->

Developing nations to test new $150 laptops

BOSTON – From Brazil to Pakistan, some of the world’s poorest children will peer across the digital divide this month — reading electronic books, shooting digital video, creating music and chatting with classmates online.

Founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology academics, the non-profit “One Laptop per Child” project will roll out nearly 2,500 of its $150-laptops to eight nations in February.

The experiment is a prelude to mass production of the kid-friendly, lime-green-and-white laptops scheduled to begin in July, when five million will be built.

Its technological triumphs include a hand crank to charge its battery, a keyboard that switches between languages, a digital video camera, wireless connectivity and Linux open-source operating software tailored for remote regions.

The project’s operators say the price should fall to $100 apiece next year, when they hope to produce 50 million of the so-called “XO” machines, before dipping below $100 by 2010 when they aim to reach 150 million of the world’s poorest children.

“We’re pledging to always drive the price down,” Walter Bender, the group’s president of software and content, told Reuters. “Rather than continuing to add features to keep the price inflated, we’re keeping the feature set stable and driving the price down.”

A string pully, which Bender likens to a “salad spinner,” is replacing the handcrank. A minute of pulling generates 10 minutes of electricity. The display switches from color to black and white for viewing in direct sunlight — a feature unavailable in laptops 10 times more expensive.

State educators in Brazil, Uruguay, Libya, Rwanda, Pakistan, Thailand and possibly Ethiopia and the West Bank will receive the first of the machines in February’s pilot before a wider rollout to Indonesia and a handful of other countries.