Here’s a PC World article on the “one laptop per child” program (a program which is manufacturing extremely cheap laptops (c $100) which they will provide free for kids in Third World countries. As you can imagine, the responses to this program break down along all the usual lines: the idealists, the pessimists, the people who argue that they’ll put the kids at risk because they don’t have the education to deal with all the possible threats on the internet, and so on. I was impressed with the sorts of things that the designers thought about – they seem to have considerably more awareness for the potential conditions these computers would be used in than the pessimists give them credit for. There seemed to be a worry in the article that the laptops wouldn’t just be used by the kids who they were given to. That’s right – in societies with community ownership of property it’s weird to expect that the youngest and least powerful members of society would get to “keep” a “gift” like this. However, that’s potentially a good thing! It’s a way of getting more community members involved and making sure a) that the kids are supervised and b) that the parents aren’t isolated and made to feel that their kids are being turned against them by outsiders.
It’s a program that could have fantastic potential for endangered languages. It would be possible to provide all members of a team with their own laptops on even small infrastructure grants.