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Bangladesh launches $130 laptop for schools
by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Oct 11, 2011

Bangladesh on Tuesday unveiled a $130 locally made laptop that it hopes will help bridge the digital divide in the impoverished South Asian country.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unveiled the Doel -- or magpie -- laptops at a ceremony in the capital Dhaka, saying the computer, made by state-owned telecom company TSS, would help Bangladesh become a middle-income nation by 2021.

"(There are) four types of Doel laptops, the most basic one is priced at 10,000 taka ($130). The highest price is 26,000 taka," said government spokesman Shefayet Hossain.

Hossain said the idea of the cut-price laptops came from the education ministry, which aims to distribute them to tens of millions of poor students.

TSS has struck joint venture deals with two private companies to produce and market the laptops across the country, he added.

The Doel is Bangladesh's national bird.

Despite a booming economy, which has grown at an average six percent each year over the last decade, Bangladesh ranks low on Internet and information technology penetration.

The government has said it hopes that the inexpensive laptop will aid in closing the digital gap in the country.

Digital inclusion has the potential to bring education to people in countries where educational infrastructure is limited, experts say.

Access to the Internet is also seen as a way to bolster health care, banking and other services and help lift millions of Bangladeshis out of poverty.

Last week, neighbouring India launched what has been dubbed the world's cheapest computer -- a $46 tablet device. The government is planning to buy 100,000 of the tablets to be given away for free to students.

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