Fishing with OLPC
I also suspect the "But these children need food, shelter, and medicine more than they need a laptop!" argument will take in many as it possesses emotional appeal but clearly isn't sound. It implies that garnering food, shelter, medicine, and other basic necessities have no relationship to a global, broadband network (i.e. the Internet). True, my computer cannot literally fill my stomach, but to imply no relationship between a networked device and the ability to obtain needs is clearly oversimplification. The economic sea of digital authorship has fish in it. But if one were to say, "What a child needs is fish to eat, not a net!", one would simply sound foolish. Stephen mentions this as well ("Teach a man to fish...").
I also want to make clear that I am in favor of OLPC-like initiatives only on one very important condition. That such projects are designed and implemented around a complete (i.e. not just the kernel) FLOSS operating system. Anything less and such a project is unsustainable.