Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Computers for the Poor

Fascinating article from CNET News.com about the different models being looked at to provide "inexpensive computers to the billions of people who live in rural villages and urban centers in the developing world." Link here.

Includes information on the $100 laptop, Linux thin client, and the Microsoft cell-phone turned computer. I actually thought the most interesting part of the article was one of the "talk-back" posts by someone who described himself as "third-world born and raised" and who described how much he was able to learn from books about computers. He says:

" You do not need to give them ownership of computers. Just access. Mostly, you need to give them books... Give us libraries with books. Give us computer labs with computers. They do not have to be the latest and greatest but give us stuff that works!" (link here)

Maybe what this poster clarifies most is that there are two types of computer usage not only in "third-world" countries but even in developed countries: those learning to use computers for basic clerical tasks, where just familiarity with computers is significant; and those learning computers at a technical level who will help to build a computer infrastructure wherever they live. Both are valuable, but it does seem that the latter will most bring long-term benefits to their society. If there is a lesson from this poster, both groups would be benefitted from making simple computer labs available, and trying to bring computers to each individual may not be
a costly "red herring."

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