Without a doubt, the most impressive thing I’ve seen at this IDF is a report from Intel’s World Ahead programme. World Ahead represents Intel’s commitment to support Third World countries with technological aid. Now, I’ve seen a lot of big companies talking about helping the Third World and supplying technology to improve the development of children, but Intel is actually doing, rather than just talking.
During his keynote, Paul Otellini showed off the Intel Classmate notebook. This is a low cost, basic mobile PC that’s been designed to be robust enough for the trials of life in the Third World. The Classmate has no moving parts – it uses flash memory for storage, rather than a hard disk, so it should survive any number of knocks and drops.
The Classmate PC is equipped with wireless networking, so the teacher is able to connect with all of the students in a classroom. This allows the teacher to interact directly with every student in the room, thus giving the same amount of attention to each of them.
Otellini showed a video of the first rollout of Classmate computers to a small village school in Nigeria. Seeing the difference that these computers made to the children in the school was, for want of a better word, emotional, and that’s quite an achievement with a cynical old hack like me.