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TECH TALK: Disruptive Bridges: My First Computer

December 16th, 2002 · No Comments

My First Computer is an idea to bring the computer on the desk of every employee in enterprises and government who are presently not using computers for no more than Rs 500 (USD 10) per month. First, we will discuss the concept in more detail, consider the economics of the solution, and how this can serve as the foundation for creating a platform for developing a variety of software and information services.

A word of caution: the approach outlined here may seem like a set of retrograde steps from our vantage point as power PC users, but let us remember that we are looking at users who have not in the past 20 years tasted computing. For every person who us using a computer, there are 10 others who are not perhaps because they cannot afford one, or they cannot use one, or their employer feels they do need one. This is the segment we are focusing on, and these are the problems we are trying to tackle: affordability, usability and need, and for which My First Computer is the answer.

The Rs 500 per month per person is an important psychological barrier. Considering that the computer can be thought of as a productivity enhancement tool, any person earning Rs 5,000 per month or more can become a candidate for using one if it can result in a 10% productivity increase. Looking at what the computer can do and what employees are typically doing in a company, a 10% increase in the efficiency of tasks they do should be an achievable target.

At a Rs 500 price point, what the employee gets on the desktop is a system which (a) enables letters to be written, read, stored and printed (b) allows for basic tabular data to be written and manipulated for contacts or phone numbers (c) serves as a communicator – with messages to sent to others (d) offers a window to browse the Internet, and (e) is an extensible platform on which new services can be added.

Note that we are not talking of the operating system and applications (yet). Instead, the focus is on what the computer can do the tasks and scenarios in which it can be used. This is where I think we have grossly under-utilised the computer and what it can do. (In fact, I cannot imagine any other investment where the asset is used at less than 5% of its capabilities.) We need to think of and explain to end-users what the computer can do for them. This must have been done in the early days of the computers. The same selling points need to be revisited now because we are selling to non-consumers. The big difference from 20 years ago: we are selling at a price point of a mass-market product for the bottom of the pyramid almost like a razor-blade shaving system. We need to explain the benefits of the solution (in case the connected computer) and show how the enterprise can get a return on its investment in terms of the increased productivity of the employee.

Tomorrow: My First Computer (continued)


TECH TALK Disruptive Bridges+T

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