March 30, 2006 12:32 PM PST

Intel eyes PCs for developing nations

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Intel on Thursday night announced the second rugged computer platform in an initiative designed to bring PC technology to developing nations.

The fully featured, high-quality, low-cost desktop PC platform is aimed at first-time computer users and the design is meant to be carried out by PC makers. The platform was unveiled by Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini at a press event in Mexico as part of Intel's "Discover the PC" effort.

While Intel has not yet released details, the platform is promised to be small, inexpensive, energy-efficient and reasonably priced for the average developing-nation family, according to a statement.

Photo: The Community PC

The desktop PCs will also have high-speed Internet access.

Intel is participating in the expansion of WiMax broadband in Mexico. WiMax is a wireless Internet delivery system that can travel much longer distances than Wi-Fi, enabling users in remote locations to pick up signal.

The "Discover the PC" initiative follows Intel's announcement earlier this week of a $50 million venture capital fund in Brazil for the purpose of promote technology businesses in the developing country.

Most consumer PCs are not designed to withstand unusually adverse climate conditions or handle fluctuating power supplies, and that has severely limited their use in parts of some developing countries.

On Wednesday, Intel unveiled in India a fully functional computer called the Community PC. It's well-equipped to handle adverse conditions, according to Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan.

Intel's Community PC is designed to withstand temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 85 percent relative humidity, and has a removable dust filter. To keep the motherboard cool, the chassis houses an integrated fan. The computer operates on a "customized power supply unit," and is designed to consume less than 100 watts while operating, which is another way of keeping the computer's heat in check.

Intel has partnered with Wipro and HCL Technologies to produce the components. Wipro is India's second-largest IT company. HCL Technologies is an India-based company that specializes in remote IT infrastructure.

According to Kwan, Intel is also working with local Internet service providers to develop Internet capabilities for wireless and land-line services.

Previous PCs-for-the-poor projects, such as the Simputer and Nicholas Negroponte's $100 crank computer, have focused on making it possible for people living in rural areas of the developing world to own computing devices. The Community PC, as the name suggests, tunes in to the concept of community sharing that is prevalent in many developing areas.

"Our experience shows that ICT (information and communication technology) adoption in developing nations requires much more than providing a standard PC; the technology often needs to be adapted to the local usage and environment of a particular country or region," William M. Siu, vice president and general manager of Intel's Channel Platforms Group, said in a statement.

Rather than offering several PCs for private ownership in a village, the Community PC program focuses on installing one machine in a village kiosk, where time on the PC can be rented and assistance can be supplied by the kiosk owner.

Because the PC is also a source of income for the kiosk owner, the cost can be higher than other developing world devices that have been limited in functionality by price point. Intel declined to name the price of the machine but said in a statement that it is partnering with local banks to offer payment plans to village entrepreneurs looking to set up a Community PC kiosk. The kiosk program is called "Jaagruti" (pronounced Zhah-grew-ty), which is Sanskrit for "awakening," according to Kwan.

The Jaagruti kiosk Community PC platform will have certificate-based access that will allow lending banks remote-access control over payment plan participants.

Based on several pilot projects conducted throughout India, Intel sees the Community PC as most attractive to villagers seeking a registry for government paperwork they would otherwise have to travel extensively to retrieve and file. (The Community PC, according to Kwan, will also include a printer port.)

Kwan noted that Jaagruti is only part of a long-term and comprehensive commitment to expanding use of technology in developing areas, and that more platforms custom-tailored to emerging markets can be expected from Intel.

See more CNET content tagged:
Wipro Technologies, Information and Communication Technology, developing country, India, Intel


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Internet cafes already in rural India
There already are Internet cafes in rural India. What I saw on a recent visit were ordinary desktop PCs being used in cafes, businesses and even a convent: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

The cybercafes are used by foreign tourists but also by locals: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

The better equipped cybercafes have banks of dangerous looking lead acid batteries to supply power during the frequent blackouts. Some businesses had individual Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) for each PC and even the convent's computer used by the nuns had one: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

As Lombardi write, Intel's Community PC makes more sense than Nicholas Negroponte's $100 wind up one per child computer: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Apart from not having an actual useable computer, what will stop Negroponte's wind up computer is dependence on charity. The idea of sharing computers through cybercafes which charge for service will work much better.
Posted by tomw99 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The $100 laptop and Internet Cafes are complementary
Hi, tom:

Actually the two projects are very complementary. Internet Cafes provide an access point to the Internet for the mesh network of the $100 laptops.

The issues that need to be resolved are:

1) Legality of providing bandwidth. Some broadband agreements in third world countries are outstandingly anal regarding sharing bandwidth even if you're on a business plan.

2) How will the cafes make money by supporting the mesh network? If anyone can find the answer to that, there is no reason why the two (cafes and the $100 laptop) can't coexist and co-prosper.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Hat's off to Intel...I'm already doing the same thing.
I am curently deploying Internet Cafes in third world countries.

They make sense to users because there is no capital expense on their part. Families in those income brackets have other Capital Expenditure priorities: A refrigerator, television set, etc. that the whole family can use, vs. a computer which appeals more to the younger members of the family.

Another matter is broadband. Families can't afford to be tied into a monthly service contract for broadband. Income is unpredictable. Cafes provide them a pay per use option.

Computer maintenance is another attraction. If they have their own computer, someone needs to learn how to fix it, or they need to spend to have it fixed. With Cafe computers, users don't worry about maintaining their own computer.

The only comment I have about the photo is that Intel's prototype looks freaking huge. Cafes are always cramped for space. Mini towers, like Dell's small form factor PCs, or the Shuttle PCs are more attractive to cafe owners. It might even help bring down the cost of the PC.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Intel want to increase market share in India
Indian's have a nice PC making business of their own and there are PCs next to the phone booth in virtually every Indian village.

This is just an attempt by Intel to push their computers into India and increase market share at the expense of the local IT business.
Posted by hackershandbook (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This Looks Like The Conception....
... of a sound business model; since "the PC is also a source of income for the kiosk owner, the cost can be higher than other developing world devices that have been limited in functionality by price point. Intel declined to name the price of the machine but said in a statement that it is partnering with local banks to offer payment plans to village entrepreneurs looking to set up a Community PC kiosk..."; by extending this concept to SOHOs around the world it is quite apparent that certain "services tasks" (back office operations, project planning, application development...) could be outsourced to these SOHOs whether local or international thereby allowing the more established businesses around the world to concentrate on the business at hand; re: marketing and selling...!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
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This is a terrible idea. What happens when the kiosk owners decide that they get to choose who accesses the freely distributable information that we know as the internet? By the way, what OS is currnetly planned to be installed to these machines?
Posted by anotherdike (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oops, looks to be WinXP from the pictures. Great. People who know very little using an insecure OS. Great.
Posted by anotherdike (2 comments )
Link Flag
I run Internet Cafes. Anyone who is willing to pay the rental rates is welcome. It doesn't make business sense to do otherwise.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag

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