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First $150 laptops arrive in Africa

Computers for schoolchildren being rolled out

African countries will be among the first to roll out $150 laptops, after officials announced they would start receiving products from the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame said last week that the government intends to provide the laptops to primary schools. The Rwandan government, through the Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research will collaborate with the OLPC in rolling out the machines in schools.

"Rwanda wants to transform into a knowledge-based economy, hence the need to provide schools throughout the country with computers," Kagame said.

Libya, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, among other countries, are also expected to receive the machines this month.

Libya has agreed to work with the OLPC project to deploy the laptops for every school-age child in the country. The commitment for the PCs, however, differs from country to country depending on the number of primary schoolchildren, according to Jackie Lustig, a spokesperson for OLPC.

"Nigeria, Rwanda and Libya have showed commitment to the OLPC. We are also in discussion with several other countries that have approached us and showed varying levels of interest," Lustig said.

Lustig said Libya has committed to providing 1.2 million children with the laptops within one year while Rwanda will provide two million children with the laptops over the next five years.

Libya has said it will buy more laptops than the number of children in the country and will contribute the excess machines to poorer African nations.

The Nigerian Communication Commission says Nigeria has committed to buying one million OLPC machines.

The rollout has already started in some countries in Africa but the full-scale rollout is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year, Lustig said.

However, there are different projects under way in Africa to meet the need for low-cost computers. In Kenya the government has managed to assemble low-cost computers with the help of several vendors. Lenovo, Sahara Computers and Mecer PC have been appointed by the Communication Commission of Kenya to assemble the first computers in the Madaraka line this month. These computers are priced at $450.


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