Some of us in Kolkata have been working on an experiment called “Nije Shikhi” (নিজে শিখি), a program where young children (mostly from underpriviledged/rural backgrounds) are simply given access to a computer, and allowed to self learn, with minimal/no adult supervision.
The computers to be used for that are based on the Geode platform, and are powered by a 12 volt DC battery (which is charged by solar cells). The entire setup was recently demo’ed live at the inaugural session of the Tech Fest of Heritage Institute of Technology (where I spoke on how students might get started with contributing to Free/Open Source Software), and the student response was absolutely fantastic.
Currently, the plan is to run a somewhat locked down version of GNOME on the machines, since these will be mostly unattended installations in the remote districts of our state. However, we are trying to investigate methods to provide full freedom to the learners while making sure that the systems remain usable even if someone manages to mess up the settings badly (rm -rf \$HOME on a periodic basis??).
(Photo by Indranil Das Gupta)