Nortel (NT) has become a corporate member of the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) initiative. OLPC, a non-profit organization, was formed earlier this year by Nicholas Negroponte and other faculty members from the MIT Media Lab.

The objective of OLPC is to develop a fully functioning, connected laptop to give the largest number of the world's children – especially those in developing nations – an innovative learning tool for independent interaction, revolutionizing information delivery to schoolchildren globally.

According to OLPC, currently government agencies in Argentina, Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, China, Egypt and India are in preliminary discussions with OLPC to distribute US$100 laptops through pilot programs in each of these countries.

According to OLPC, the laptop, currently in the early stages of development, is designed to be the size of a standard school notebook and will use wireless networking capabilities to allow children to interact with each other and access the Internet and community resources. It is expected to leverage built-in wireless capabilities that support WiFi and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and be used as a conventional computer, electronic book, handheld game console and even function as a TV.

Nortel has paid a fee to obtain a corporate membership in OLPC which is renewable on an annual basis.

By joining OLPC, Nortel, an existing sponsor of the Media Lab through its University Interaction Program, extends its long-standing relationship with the Lab.

"The goal of OLPC is to actively engage children in their own education. The $100 laptop will belong to each child and be part his or her life, in and out of school, for study and for play. By providing Internet access and tools to think with, a child has the opportunity to learn about learning itself. By virtue of all children in a school having their own laptops, a connected community emerges," says Negroponte, who serves as chairman of OLPC.

Involvement with OLPC reinforces Nortel's "Connecting Community" initiative to help improve education, health care and trade in developing markets. Nortel seeks to help develop communities that have little or no existing communications infrastructure and capabilities, and is committed to digital and social inclusion in emerging markets.

"Nortel has a firm belief in the power of communications technology to enhance the lives of people around the world. Our sponsorship of initiatives such as the OLPC can help address some of the greatest challenges in emerging markets," said Martha Bejar, president, Caribbean and Latin America and Emerging Markets Solutions, Nortel. "We believe that wireless broadband technology will be the bridge to connect communities that are today disconnected. These technologies are already being leveraged to address the digital divide that exists between developed and developing markets."

Over one billion people globally are still without access to basic telecom services and 800,000 communities have no connection to global voice or data networks, according to statistics from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). (Source: ITU, May 2004 and June 2005).

OLPC is a Delaware-based, non-profit organization created by faculty members from the MIT Media Lab to design, manufacture, and distribute laptops that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education.

The laptops will be sold to governments and issued to children by schools on a basis of one laptop per child. These machines will be rugged, Linux-based, and so energy efficient that hand-cranking alone can generate sufficient power for operation. Mesh networking will give many machines Internet access from one connection. The pricing goal is to start near $100 and then steadily decrease.

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