Development and at a low cost?

30Sep05

The developing world. And within that, rural. Children and education. And women. This is where all emerging technology seems to be headed. Politically correct noises? Or just plain marketing widsom? And is this here to last – and deliver the promise of accelerated development in these countries? Or a bubble waiting to burst?

Yahoo studying rural needs, says BusinessLine. Speaking to Business Line at his Bangalore office, Dr Prasad Ram, CTO, Yahoo! R&D India, said that `livelihood-based’ offerings for the rural market would roll out by mid-2006. Right.

And a very interesting Sub-$100 laptop design unveiled. Professor Negroponte came up with the idea for a cheap computer for all after visiting a Cambodian village. His non-profit One Laptop Per Child group plans to have up to 15 million machines in production within a year.. Such optimism is actually scary – Professor Negroponte predicts there could be 100 million to 150 million shipped every year by 2007. What I found interesting in this product idea is the thought that seems to have gone in with respect to the needs of the end users (in this case, children from the developing world) – with all the associated problems – for instance, the laptop is designed to be sturdy and will have a hand crank for charging it – which makes immense sense given the power situation in most places where this laptop is targetted. Virtually indestructible, says the report further.

Not to forget mobile phones. Mobile market shifts its focus – to surprise, surprise, the third world. It could see an increase in cheaper, data-based voice services and a rise in voice-based messaging services. The latter will be particularly popular in areas of low literacy, the report finds. However, with mobile phones, there are regulalr reports of good work happening across countries (textually is fantastic with recording these activities).

Read about village phones for farmers in Uganda and about the Bangladesh mobile help-line for women which has recently won the gender and ict awards. I had recently blogged about two similar internet-based initiatives in India, one, the NCW portal targetted at women and the other, the popular echoupal for farmers.

Update : Low-Cost PCs for the Enterprise linked by Rajesh Jain on Emergic discusses many such initiatives, including Negroponte’s sub $100 laptop.

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