Imagine if there was a computer available to every employee in every company for a cost of Rs 750 per person per month for both hardware and software. This way, anyone earning Rs 7,500 or more can be given a computer if that persons productivity is expected to increase by 10% or so. Is this possible? Definitely. Given the inefficiencies that are inherent in the current paper-based processes, computers should be able to make people and the organizations much more productive.
How do we make this happen? The budget per employee available over a 36-month period is Rs 27,000. By using a thin client-thick server architecture with Linux, it should be possible to get the total cost of ownership of hardware and networking to no more than Rs 15,000. Software should be made available for Rs 10,000, leaving Rs 1,000 for annual support over the other two years.
The software that enterprises need can be categorised as follows:
Desktop Computing: Every user needs a base set of applications on the desktop email client, web browser, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application, and an instant messaging client. There is an open-source equivalent available for each of the components. These applications help make the individual more productive in tasks such as communications, documentation and personal information management (calendar, address book, ToDos).
Messaging and Security: The organisation needs server software which provides mail and instant messaging, allows multiple users to browse the Internet over a single connection (proxy server), manages files and printers, enables the creation of new user accounts and provides a easy-to-use administration interface. In addition, the server also has a firewall to prevent unauthorized access from outside and anti-virus software to ensure that viruses do not damage any data. Open-source can be used as the base to build most of these applications.
Information Management: Once users have computers on their desktops and they can communicate with each other and the external world through email, the next step is to enable information sharing and collaboration. Tacit knowledge within users needs to be captured via enterprise weblogs. A digital dashboard can enable users to receive notifications on exceptional events as they happen.
Business Applications: Software to manage the core business processes of the enterprise is what will create the MirrorEnterprise. At the heart are three key verticals managing customers, managing money flows and managing the supply chain. What is needed is a software suite which integrates all of these silos, such that information needs to be entered only once and is then immediately available across the enterprise. The MirrorEnterprise thus becomes a digital representation which is updated in near real-time as events happen in the physical world.
Tomorrow: SMEs (continued)