December 5, 2007
Birmingham city schools first in the US to get OLPC laptops
Birmingham City Schools (Alabama) will be the first in the US to get the $200 XO laptops for the their students. Mayor Larry Langford says, “We live in a digital age, so it is important that all our children have equal access to technology and are able to integrate it into all aspects of their lives. We are proud that Birmingham is on its way to eliminating the so-called `digital divide’ and to ensuring that our children have state-of-the-art tools for education.” According to the agreement the city will buy 15,000 laptops for $200 each. The $3 million deal will allow every child in grades one through eight in Birmingham city schools to receive a laptop. “Our students will have access to global thinking now,” said Birmingham schools Superintendent Stan Mims. “It becomes a tipping point in the digital divide.” However the City Council has to yet approve of the $7 million for the laptops and a scholarship program that would give Birmingham students with a C average or above a scholarship to college or tech school of their choice.
The $200 XO laptops are rugged and waterproof. The computers will be distributed to students on April 15 and the children will be allowed to take them home. If a computer is lost, the school system can disable it, rendering it useless, Students will have to return their computers at the end of their eighth-grade year. The machines don’t run Microsoft Office, Photoshop or any other standard Mac or Windows programs, instead use a free, open-source version of GNU/Linux, with a simplified graphical interface designed for children that is called Sugar. It features a 500-megahertz processor and 256 megabytes of DRAM (dynamic random access memory) with 1 gigabyte of flash memory. Specs include Web browsers and their own WiFi system, the ability to connect to the Internet wirelessly.