WITH THE BEGINNING of the new school year the Portuguese PM, José Socrates, and a posse of ministers-in-waiting handed out 3,000 new Classmate PCs to eagerly waiting kiddies. This is the first batch of the 500,000 machines expected to be delivered over a three-year period.
Delivering on a promise made just a couple of months ago, first- through fourth-graders throughout Portugal received yesterday the new lappies for next to nothing (€50) or for free in the case of low-income families.
The Magalhães is a second generation Classmate PC, based on the Celeron 900 unit, rather than the recently launched Atom-based Classmate PC. The machine comes chock-full of privacy protection tools as well as a “pay-as-you-go” internet access and a rather original games module that is unlocked *if* the student has done his homework.
The Mistress of Education, Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues, claims that the current PC-to-Student ratio is 5:1, and plans are on course to reduce that to 2:1, putting it ahead of the rest of Europe. Well, one laptop per half-a-child is better than none, right?
The cunning plan to boost computer literacy and school achievement levels has no specific agenda except raising the bar on education. There is a secondary target in mind, which the Portuguese government is working on: providing cheaper internet access at home. Details on this are vague, pretty vague, but according to Mrs. Rodrigues, it will be up to local government to take care of this.
The machine will also retail at local shops like Fnac, this week, at the cost of €285. Of course, you can buy an EeePC or WindPC for about the same price.
There are also plans to take this particular PC abroad to other Portuguese-speaking countries and, Chavez-willing, to Venezuela. µ