Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Even More on the $100 Laptop

I’ve discussed the $100 laptop in “Freedom To Tinker, Freedom to Learn,” and “More on ‘Freedom To Tinker, Freedom to Learn’.” In “Tech Delusions and The Trouble with Christmas,” Kerry Howley discusses many reasons why this is a bad idea:

For now, OLPC plans to sell only to governments of poor countries, not individuals here or anywhere else. (The minimum order for the stripped down computer is a hefty 1 million machines.) The laptops will thus be sold at $100 a pop to cash-strapped governments and distributed for free, which is as top-down a way to deliver the internet to kids as has ever been proposed.

I was curious: How does that $100 million compare to the wealth of nations? It turns out that, the CIA World Factbook has the data, and for ten nations, it exceeds their GDP:
Falkland Islands,
Wallis and Futuna,
St Pierre and Miquelon,
Saint Helena,
and Tokelau.

There’s always been a special place in the cypherpunk heart for island nations, subsisting on regulatory arbitrage and exporting financial privacy. I just had a great time learning about these. Other interesting links for these nations include the Lonely Planet guidebook online, and the World Factbook.

Getting back to the point, these nations also couldn’t reasonably order a million laptops between them, because they might have 200,000 residents all told. A full half of whom are in Kiribati. Perhaps more interestingly, for another 30, including Liechtenstein, Grenada, Dominica, and East Timor, $100 million would exceed 10% of their annual GDP.