India, Linux and Amida

Asia Times Online writes:

“Cost is a factor, but Linux actually offers better security as the source code on proprietary software is always secret, making Linux-based solutions ideal for applications like the SATHI,” said an official in the Department of Information Technology. One popular version of Simputer is Amida, a cross between a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a hand-held computer. It was built with support from Bharat Electronics Ltd, the public-sector giant that produces electronic devices for the defense industry.

Targeted at Indians who are techno-savvy but on the wrong side of the digital divide because of limited financial resources, Amida does everything that can be done on a standard notebook – web browsing, mailing web pages, and sending voice mail over wireless Internet. The Amida website offers downloadable programs for users of Windows and Macintosh operating systems. “Amida qualifies to be a truly converged device that incorporates the key functions of both PDA and cellular phone, and I find it ideal for use while traveling,” said Amit Mittal, an enthusiast.

Because Amida has a slot for reading smart cards, it is also useful in non-urban settings. For instance, it allows a village panchayat (local body) or even a shopkeeper to hire out the device to individuals for specific periods – each user investing only in a smart card with his or her personal profile stored on it. Said Puneet Kumar, a commentator on information technology and an executive with WIPRO, the global software major: “Simputer demonstrates that no country need fear being left out of the computer revolution if they learn to adapt it to local conditions.”

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