February 28, 2007 4:00 AM PST

Two visions for delivering PCs to emerging nations

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

In its effort to bring computers to emerging nations, the nonprofit trade organization One Laptop Per Child has linked up with some of the world's largest contract manufacturers and component suppliers to build its low-cost machines.

Chipmaker Intel, meanwhile, is working with companies like Zinox, a hardware maker from Nigeria you've probably never heard of.

The difference, though, could prove pivotal in determining which vision for expanding computing into emerging nations spreads more broadly and rapidly. By centralizing manufacturing, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) says it can keep the cost of its XO computer to a minimum. Taiwan's Quanta will make the laptops while Chi Mei Optoelectronics and FoxConn will supply the screens.

The laptops cost $150 to make and will go down over time, according to OLPC's founder and chairman, Nicholas Negroponte, and this year about 1 million of the machines will be made each month. The organization is also trying to get governments to subsidize its programs.

"OLPC has one goal: to maximize the number of children who have a connected laptop," wrote Negroponte in an e-mail. "Intel views children as a market and we view them as a mission."

By contrast, PCs based on Intel's Classmate PC blueprint will cost about $300 this year and eventually get below $200, said John Davies, vice president of the World Ahead program at Intel. Although potentially more expensive, the Intel systems will be made in the regions in which they'll be sold, which will lead to local job growth, better customer support and, ideally, the start of a local IT industry. The infrastructure in many places already exists, Davies added.

"Eighty percent of the PCs in Pakistan are assembled by Pakistani companies," he said.

Companies like Taiwan's Via Technologies take a similar tack. Via collaborates with universities and local manufacturers in Africa and India to develop inexpensive PCs and thin clients based on its chips.

"One factor is local job support and one is local tech support. When the products are out in the field, who is going to stand by and support them? Support is absolutely critical," said Richard Brown, vice president of marketing for Via. "Oftentimes, schools want to buy locally."

Low Cost PCs

Who's right? Who knows, but analysts and outsiders tend to lean toward the Intel and Via view of things.

?There's something to be said for having regional knowledge about your audience," said Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC. "If you do a cookie cutter approach, you can do it more cheaply, but it may not fit the existing situation."

The "build local" ethos can also definitely impact local economies, said Wayan Vota, the director of Geekcorps, which helps bring technology to rural villages in emerging nations. Geekcorps partners with Via.

 

Correction: This story misstated John Davies' first name, as well as the name of the program for which Davies works. It is called World Ahead.

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COST OF PCs
The problem facing Africa is not the cost of PCs but the cost of internet bandwidth. Millions of people have access to used computers some as cheap as $50, however internet access is prohibitively expensive for both individuals and institutions because most internet connections use expensive satellite communications.

I run an internet cafe in Africa but live in the United States. I pay $1800 a month for satellite internet access in Africa but only $45 for the same amount of bandwidth for my home in the US. This has not stopped people from flocking to the cafe because the young of Africa are information hungry.

What Africa needs are many undersea fiber-optic cables connecting the continent with Europe and North America. The availability of PCs will take care of itself if bandwidth is a lot cheaper than it is today. I wish these well intentioned but misguided charity attempts will address the real issues and rely less on conventional wisdom. African PC users need cheap internet bandwidth. Cheap used PCs are already a dime a dozen.
Posted by judegab (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
COST OF PCs
The problem facing Africa is not the cost of PCs but the cost of internet bandwidth. Millions of people have access to used computers some as cheap as $50, however internet access is prohibitively expensive for both individuals and institutions because most internet connections use expensive satellite communications.

I run an internet cafe in Africa but live in the United States. I pay $1800 a month for satellite internet access in Africa but only $45 for the same amount of bandwidth for my home in the US. This has not stopped people from flocking to the cafe because the young of Africa are information hungry.

What Africa needs are many undersea fiber-optic cables connecting the continent with Europe and North America. The availability of PCs will take care of itself if bandwidth is a lot cheaper than it is today. I wish these well intentioned but misguided charity attempts will address the real issues and rely less on conventional wisdom. African PC users need cheap internet bandwidth. Cheap used PCs are already a dime a dozen.
Posted by judegab (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about Free
I know the people behind OLPC are intelligent, but so are the people saying its wrong...and I'm going to side and say its wrong.

$150, and $1500, and $150,000 are all relevant. As the article stated, in a market economy, you can give a computer away for opening an account...in that instance it was cheaper to acquire a customer with the giveaway, than other methods.

By the same token, I already pay about $1200 per year to an emerging economy...of course I'm a small player, but I'm not alone. The person I pay, has a computer, has bought a flat screen monitor...she buys the things she wants, and needs. She can afford it, when her neighbors cannot, because she has a job.

It's free trade that fixes this issue in a real way.

The problem with these old liberals is they don't get it. You don't educate people and then watch the money flow in. The Soviet Union was highly educated...more so than most of the earth, and the money flew out of the country, and people went to near starvation levels, when the Soviet Union broke up.

Education is not the answer! Sounds trade policy is....then education will follow. Thats the way things work. The OLPC people, are blinded by a fantasy.
Posted by rdupuy11 (908 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about Free
I know the people behind OLPC are intelligent, but so are the people saying its wrong...and I'm going to side and say its wrong.

$150, and $1500, and $150,000 are all relevant. As the article stated, in a market economy, you can give a computer away for opening an account...in that instance it was cheaper to acquire a customer with the giveaway, than other methods.

By the same token, I already pay about $1200 per year to an emerging economy...of course I'm a small player, but I'm not alone. The person I pay, has a computer, has bought a flat screen monitor...she buys the things she wants, and needs. She can afford it, when her neighbors cannot, because she has a job.

It's free trade that fixes this issue in a real way.

The problem with these old liberals is they don't get it. You don't educate people and then watch the money flow in. The Soviet Union was highly educated...more so than most of the earth, and the money flew out of the country, and people went to near starvation levels, when the Soviet Union broke up.

Education is not the answer! Sounds trade policy is....then education will follow. Thats the way things work. The OLPC people, are blinded by a fantasy.
Posted by rdupuy11 (908 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Need work
Dear God those little kids will go blind trying to look at that little screen not good for typing (unless we want train them to be the cheap tech support of the future) and also a cheap piece of crap for gaming, come on stupid tech guys those are children not morons they will find the Net.
Posted by boriken48 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Need work
Dear God those little kids will go blind trying to look at that little screen not good for typing (unless we want train them to be the cheap tech support of the future) and also a cheap piece of crap for gaming, come on stupid tech guys those are children not morons they will find the Net.
Posted by boriken48 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Teaching Excel to 6 year old kids is not criminal!
Teaching Excel to 6 year old kids is not criminal!

Excel is a tool that let's them experiment with numbers. It is one of many, and my 12 years old child was not hurt by playing with numbers in Excel when he was 6 years old. It just taught him to think of numbers and computations as objects and not to think of computations as tasks which is what schools teach, and which is the main reason for my engineering college students failures in calculus and algebra.

Of course Excel is just one tool. Teaching the RGB model is a good tool. My younger kid understood it when he was 5 and since then he prefers it as getting the right color by manipulating components. The benefit for him is understanding the meaning of numbers. Another great tool for learning to manipulate numbers is the graphic interface to procedural textures in Art of Illusion" that allows more than just feeding fixed number triplets as RGB components. Kids should be provided with tools that require them to manipulate numbers to create the effects they want. And they should be provided with a variety of tools.

Finally: LOGO. Every child should learn some LOGO as early as possible. But LOGO is geared at those good at manipulating text. Some kids would benefit more from graphic tools that manipulate numbers and abstract objects. Not all kids are equal.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Teaching Excel to 6 year old kids is not criminal!
Teaching Excel to 6 year old kids is not criminal!

Excel is a tool that let's them experiment with numbers. It is one of many, and my 12 years old child was not hurt by playing with numbers in Excel when he was 6 years old. It just taught him to think of numbers and computations as objects and not to think of computations as tasks which is what schools teach, and which is the main reason for my engineering college students failures in calculus and algebra.

Of course Excel is just one tool. Teaching the RGB model is a good tool. My younger kid understood it when he was 5 and since then he prefers it as getting the right color by manipulating components. The benefit for him is understanding the meaning of numbers. Another great tool for learning to manipulate numbers is the graphic interface to procedural textures in Art of Illusion" that allows more than just feeding fixed number triplets as RGB components. Kids should be provided with tools that require them to manipulate numbers to create the effects they want. And they should be provided with a variety of tools.

Finally: LOGO. Every child should learn some LOGO as early as possible. But LOGO is geared at those good at manipulating text. Some kids would benefit more from graphic tools that manipulate numbers and abstract objects. Not all kids are equal.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vision???
As if Intel was REALLY concerned about jobs in developping nations.

Intel wants to sell Intel. Intel wants to make sure that when there's enough Intel devices out there, users will more than likely replace their obsolete hardware with another Intel platform device.

This is business. It's OK.

What is not, is talk about vision. jobs, helping, etc. If Intel really wants to help, let them put some money from their billions of dollars of profit to local projects (not manufacturing Intel hardware) for water, surgery, agriculture, etc.

Who are they kidding?
Posted by jmdunys (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vision???
As if Intel was REALLY concerned about jobs in developping nations.

Intel wants to sell Intel. Intel wants to make sure that when there's enough Intel devices out there, users will more than likely replace their obsolete hardware with another Intel platform device.

This is business. It's OK.

What is not, is talk about vision. jobs, helping, etc. If Intel really wants to help, let them put some money from their billions of dollars of profit to local projects (not manufacturing Intel hardware) for water, surgery, agriculture, etc.

Who are they kidding?
Posted by jmdunys (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hope this works
This needs to work it's been so long in the development process it just has to work

Josh Chandler
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.techoriphic.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.techoriphic.com</a>
Posted by jchandler15 (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hope this works
This needs to work it's been so long in the development process it just has to work

Josh Chandler
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.techoriphic.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.techoriphic.com</a>
Posted by jchandler15 (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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