Indian children given free laptops


A chicken wanders inside the classroom as a student works on his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) laptop at a Marathi language medium school at Khairat, in Karjat district some 75 kms north of India's financial capital of Mumbai. 16 January 2008.

In a program that is the first of its kind in India – all children at government schools and colleges in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu will be given a free laptop.

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An estimated 6.8 million free laptops will be distributed to schoolchildren, as part of an election promise from the region’s ministers.

The cost is several hundred millions of dollars a year, which critics claim is too high and could bankrupt the government.

They argue that the money could be better spent in areas such as social services and infrastructure, says a report in the BBC. Frequent power outages in the region may also disrupt the full use of the laptops.

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But supporters say the advantages override the costs, with many of the region’s disadvantaged children being given access to previously unaffordable technology. They say the initiative will also make Tamil Nadu more competitive with other, more tech-savvy Indian states, according to the BBC.

Supply of the laptops went out to tender with Hewlett-Packard and Acer supplying the first batch to students.

Other welfare initiatives promised by the new authorities include distribution of free fans, mixers and grinders to women, and Jersey cows to poor rural families.

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