The Downside of the $100 Laptop

100lap.gifI’ve sung a lot of praise for the so-called “$100 Laptop” project spearheaded by MIT – the idea is to produce a simple laptop that can be sold in bulk to developing countries for about $100 each, then distributed to kids in schools. By all accounts, it’s an amazing idea, and an amazing example of leapfrog technology and inspiration.
However, at the risk of raining on the parade, there are possible downsides which do not seem to be getting much attention. EWasteInsights has a great piece on the most obvious one: a lack of discussion on how to dispose of the laptops at the end of their lives. Indeed, it’s strange that little mention is made about the potential “e-waste” problem a massive distribution of laptops presents, particularly in countries with poor waste handling infrastructure. Has disposal/reuse been worked into the design at all? It seems picky to bring this up, but with the incredible level of innovation that has gone into it, it’s disappointing to see no mention of the machine’s longevity or post-use possibilities. It’s a perfect chance to help kids leap frog into new technologies, but it’s also a great chance to demonstrate the principals of sustainable design, which are every bit in keeping with the project’s philosophy.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

6 responses

  1. I appreciate your concerns, but as come to think of it, every single project you can think of has contrary consequences, come on, if we can live with Nuclear power stations and their contrary consequences, then we sure can live with this. Just think of it this way, the kids this laptop empowers will grow up and have a chance to find solutions to any problems it brought. Kudos to Negropointe

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