Affordable Computers for the Developing World

Low cost, full service
computers for users in the developing world hold the potential for connecting
the most distant villagers to the worldwide web.

While in Nairobi colleagues and I met with Aaron Sundsmor, Nairobi-based Director of Programs for First Voice International.

We talked into the evening about the potential for using community radio, cell phone networks and low-cost computers to deliver information to people who are isolated and information poor. First Voice is doing a remarkable job making digital media more accessible to poor villagers.

I note that Matt Carlisle in his blog points to an Information Week feature article about low cost computers being developed for users in poor countries. MIT is perfecting the $100 laptop, a sturdy, basic laptop designed for rough handling in remote villages.

One of the ironies I experienced on my last visit to Kisumu, Kenya is standing with Benta Atieno Ogonyo, leader of the Koriato Women’s Group, as she explained the work of the demonstration plot while clutching a cell phone. The irony is that the plot has no electrical hookup. The women use a car battery re-charged by a solar panel for an electrical source.

When I was in Kisumu last, almost two decades ago, it was connected to Nairobi by road and a government-operated landline telephone system that was, for Africa in that day, relatively efficient. But it was far from convenient and a long, long way from accessible to rural villagers.

Driving into the Koriato project, Peter Odengho, development specialist, told us it was selected because it is nearly inaccessible and during the worst of the rainy season even bicycles can’t get there easily.

Today, however, it’s connected by cell phone and First Voice’s satellite services. Tomorrow it will likely be on the web. And still, it’s off the grid.

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