Colombian State Orders 65,000 XO Laptops

The department (or state) of Caldas in central Colombia has signed an agreement to purchase 65,000 XO laptops for public-school children, the One Laptop Per Child Foundation announced today. It’s the third largest single order received by OLPC, behind Peru’s purchase of 270,000 machines last December and Uruguay’s order of 100,000 last October.

Caldas, a small, mountainous state with a population of just over a million, is one of three Colombian departments covering the Paisa region, where most Colombian coffee is grown. It’s the first state in Colombia to buy into OLPC’s educational mission, which is built around low-cost computers carrying software that enables collaborative learning and experimentation.

“My government and our state legislators are fully committed to giving each and every child of primary school age the same opportunity to access knowledge as the most privileged children in New York, Berlin or Tokyo,” Caldas Governor Mario Aristizabal said in a statement about the purchase. “The One Laptop per Child program is the right vehicle to reach that goal and its potential socioeconomic impact cannot be underemphasized.”

OLPC says the laptops will be reserved for children in small towns and rural areas in Caldas, with 15,000 machines to be delivered this year and 50,000 in 2009. The government is discussing a separate purchase to cover the capital city of Manizales.

“OLPC is now gaining good traction in signing up countries to undertake significant deployments,” said OLPC founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte. To bring down the unit cost of manufacturing the XO, the foundation needs to sell hundreds of thousands or millions of the devices. But it’s had to scramble for orders in recent months as big commitments from countries such as Nigeria, Thailand, and Brazil failed to materialize into purchases.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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