India, Sierra Leone place OLPC orders

250,000 laptops are headed to India and 5,000 to Sierra Leone

India has ordered 250,000 laptops from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization, while a human rights organization will supply 5,000 OLPC machines to Sierra Leone.

In India, two government organizations and one private-sector entity placed the laptop orders, Satish Jha, president and CEO of OLPC India, said Friday.

These are the first orders in India for the OLPC XO laptop, with distribution set to begin in June to about 1,500 schools.

Giving a computer to every single child under the OLPC program was reportedly described as "pedagogically suspect" in 2006 by the country's education secretary in a letter to the country's Planning Commission.

But the government as a whole did not have an issue with OLPC, and leading government education agencies support OLPC, Jha said.

Most of the 250,000 laptops will go to children in suburban and rural areas, Jha said.

In areas where Internet connectivity is not available or is too expensive, the laptops will be connected through mesh networks to a server from where information can be downloaded, Jha said.

OLPC has a target to deploy 3 million laptops in India this year, he added.

In Sierra Leone, the plan is to distribute 5,000 XO laptops by 2011, according to Mohammed Kaindaneh, secretary general of the Human Rights Respect Awareness Raising Campaigners (HURRARC).

Fundraising to pay for the project, which will cost about US$1 million, will take place over the next two years.

A pilot project involving 50 primary schools and 500 pupils will receive 100 OLPC computers, Kaindaneh said.

The laptops for the three-month pilot are not included in the larger order for 5,000 OLPC laptops.

Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana also have received OLPC laptops.

News of the laptop project in Sierra Leone comes as research teams in Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe release findings that the Asus Eee PC netbook is a better choice for African nations than the XO laptop.

Asus is better suited to individual owners and users in rural Africa who need low-power PCs, researchers found.

They ranked the Asus Eee first for the needs of Africa, followed by Intel's Classmate, OLPC's XO, the Inveno Computing Station and Ncomputing's X300.

(Rebecca Wanjiku in Kenya contributed to this report.)

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