MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) co-founder Nicholas Negroponte showed off the latest prototype of the $100 (about £55) laptop in San Diego yesterday.

Telling the US NECC (National Educational Computing Conference) that "children are the main agents of change", the author of the best-selling book Being Digital said he expects millions of the low-cost laptops to be distributed to children in developing countries starting next year, according to a statement issued after the event.

The focal point of Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative - which aims to produce a $100 laptop computer for distribution to children in developing countries - features a hand crank that generates the 2W of power the machine needs to operate. It uses a Wi-Fi mesh to connect to the internet, and runs open-source software. All of the components are chosen for low power usage and low cost, to make the portable computers as inexpensive as possible.

NECC members got an early look at one of the project's most innovative developments: a dual-mode display that can be easily viewed in natural and artificial light, which helps to reduce the machine's power consumption.

Despite these efforts, the price tag of each computer still comes in at $130-140 (£70-£75), although Negroponte and others involved in the project believe the cost will drop as component prices decrease.

More information about this effort to reduce the digital divide can be found here.