Hal Varian Plugs the $100 Laptop In The NY Times

The NY Times published (sub. req.) a piece today by Hal Varian, a well known economist based out of the University of California at Berkeley.

I can’t seem to get off this topic, because I think its an interesting case study on approaches in social entrepreneurship (I’ll go into more detail in a moment). But before I get into that, let me do a quick link round up and give some background on what I’m talking about.

The $100 Laptop concept was around for a little bit, but seemed to really take off after it was presented (and commented on) at the World Economic Forum in Davos just a few weeks ago.

Here are my previous posts on this:

Tech Review defends the $100 Laptop
UN Body back $100 Laptop
Social Entrepreneur Focus: Negroponte and his $100 Laptop (Introduction)

There have been a flurry of articles about this but to summarize, there seems to be two camps forming around the idea of providing the world’s poor (particularly children) with computing and internet technology– those backing Negroponte and the $100 Laptop, and those backing Craig Mundie’s (CTO of Microsoft) view that using cellphones are a better and more economically sound technology.

From my vantage point, I completely agree with Hal Varian on his assessment– that both sides are right, but because both sides have different priorities. Negroponte has a strong focus on “revolutioniz[ing] how we educate the world’s children” while Microsoft believes that “cell phones are a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations,”

Its simple to see that the two camps have different values/priorities, and thats why there is disagreement on the approach.

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