Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The $100 PC

An article in Red Herring reports about an effort to manufacture a PC which costs $100, aimed at the developing market. The intention is to put these cheap and portable computers in the hands of millions of students in place of textbooks. While I can understand the desire to use technology to improve the quality of life, I don’t think this will ever work. The challenge in a developing country like India is getting the children into schools, let alone worrying about bridging the technology divide. I’m not saying that using technology to improve lives is unachievable in our country. It is very doable as my state Karnataka has shown with it’s Bhoomi initiative. But, aspiring to replace textbooks with computers is nothing but providing a solution to a problem that is yet to arise. Getting textbooks in students hands should be the primary focus. The disparity in economic status being as pronounced as it is in India, this plan might work within a segment, but will not address the problems of the vast majority.

Having upgraded my computer recently, and looking at the costs I have to agree with Om Malik when he says that $100 is just not achievable unless it is heavily subsidised. The article mentions that big companies like AMD, Samsung etc. have promised support. Of course they have, when the minimum size of the order that will be accepted for these $100 PC’s is one million. What will have to be seen is if the subsidy has to be provided by the governments, or by the companies also in the spirit of corporate social responsibility.

A better way of technology dissemination in India would be to follow Sam Pitroda’s PCO model. Community access to computers will serve the purpose better and be more successful.

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Blogger Yasho said...

As any business student worth his salt will tell you, even "corporate social responsibility" is an exercise in ensuring future profits. So it makes more sense to appeal to the business sensibilities of the corporates than their social ones. Easier said than done of course. But worth a thought.

2/03/2005 09:36:00 PM  

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