In case you have not caught this on the news wire, India is all set to launch a $7 or Rs. 500 laptop. If India does manage to pull it off, it'll be quite a response to the OLPC $200 (originally the $100 laptop)!
"It forms part of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology, India’s new scheme to boost learning in rural areas through the internet." I do wonder about the fate of a project that has the Indian government behind it - I'd have bet on a private sector initiative to meet with better success, but there are some elite partnerships that are making this possible -
"The laptop is the result of cooperation between several of India’s elite technology institutions, including the Vellore Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the Semi-conductor Laboratory that forms part of India’s Space Department. Private companies are also taking part."
Clearly, introducing a machine such as this and even flooding rural schools with it is not the answer to providing better education. The key is in training teachers and developing appropriate applications and curricula that will leverage this tool for better teaching and learning in the millions of classrooms that form part of the abysmal public school education system in India.
That said, I do hope that this machine makes it out the door - as a testimony to Indian engineering, if nothing else. Perhaps other details like the "how" of putting it to good use in classrooms will follow in due course. (I'm feeling strangely optimistic today :))
[Update: The spate of negative press that followed this news piece is disheartening, to say the least. It seems like the $7 or $10 was just a figure thrown up out of nowhere with no concrete details. See the links below. Even if it turns out that the government is hugely subsidizing this, I suppose it is alright, as long as in the end it is truly affordable for rural schools to use this....India could've done without egg on her face, though.]