The ‘Bee’ is a computer that was presented at October’s Dorkbot hosted at Location One, a NYC area non-profit.

The Bee’s homepage of sorts describes the machine as thus:

The ‘Bee’ is a mobile communication system developed by the Innovations Unit in UNICEF’s Division of Communication. The Bee will allow communication, connectivity and data access in field conditions where such technologies are often difficult or impossible to use.

Essentially a computer built into a weather-proofed case that can be taken to areas around the world otherwise lacking information access points or which have recently been devestated by natural or man-made disasters. Further into layman’s terms, basically a bunch of dorks being really innovative and inspiring, building computers for purposes and conditions often overlooked or not understood by most Western countries. An example given was compiling a localized version of the English-language Wikipedia – sans images – for deployment into regions of Africa that lack books and other educational tools. I forget the voltage and power consumption of the unit, but I think it was said it could run off of 4 AA batteries (6 volts) for approximately 2 hours. So a kiosk with the computer installed, and an accompanying solar panel could theoretically power the unit indefinitely.

The “ecosystem” refers to not only the operating system – running Ubuntu Linux – but also the physical construction of the unit, which was designed to be able to be constructed from off-the-shelf hardware elements, so that no matter where the “Bee” was located in the world, one should be able to replace or upgrade a physical component without the need to order from a specific proprietary hardware source

The Unicef dorks in action. The Bee is currently powered up, running off of its internal battery, and the Ubuntu desktop (Hardy Heron) can be recognized.

The keyboard layout and mouse interface. (no F-keys, something they were going to hope to upgrade with future prototypes)

someone pretend-typing, to demonstrate a sense of scale.

The Unicef dork about to fold the Bee into a piece of luggage.

All that remains is the lid.

Keep a lookout for this thing making headlines in the coming months, as while it is definitely not a direct competitor to the OLPC XO-1 laptop and its mission, it is capable of overtaking it in other capacities.