At Davos, Switzerland MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte presented the idea of producing a US$100 laptop computer, something he believes will revolutionize the way children are educated. The project – One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) – would market the machines directly to governments who can distribute them much like textbooks. Initial talks have been held with the governments of China and Brazil.

The computer would be based around open-source software, and basically do everything you’d expect from a laptop – but with less storage capacity.

Initially up to 100,000 units would be manufactured, followed by up to a whopping 200 million units by the following year.

One particularly interesting idea is that the laptops would be WiFi-compatible, and although Internet access might be hard to come by in some areas, the computers can form ad-hoc meshed networks and communicate with each other independently of network access.

An important question not yet addressed by Mr Negroponte, is what measures a government like China is likely take in order to limit the uses of the machine. My experience is that would you put this technology in the hands of children, some unexpected things are bound to happen. Any software can be hacked, and if anybody can to it, it’s a million teenagers who just want to have fun. For a recent example of this, see the Kutztown 13.

Update: More information about the project at The Register.