TECH TALK: Disruptive Bridges: The Building Blocks

The building blocks for achieving the vision of “a connected computer for every employee and family” are many. Just as a collection of Lego blocks can build amazing structures, so also these basic ideas and technologies can serve as the base for constructing our disruptive bridges.

Low-cost computers: We need desktop computers for USD 100 (Rs 5,000). That is the price point at which it can become a mass-market phenomenon. How to make this happen? Recycle computers from the developed countries. As they upgrade, what they dispose can be re-used in the developing countries. [Related Articles]

Server-centric computing: To convert these older, one or more generation-old computers high-performance systems, we need to move processing to servers (which can be new, high-end desktop computers). This is similar in concept to what IBM talks of as “grid computing” and what used to happen with mainframes in the past. The low-cost computers become terminals, but with one key difference: the desktop that end-users see (look-and-feel) and sense (in performance) is very much similar to the ubiquitous MS-Windows desktop. [Related Articles]

Open-source software: Concomitant with the reduction in cost of hardware is a need to reduce cost of software. For this, users in developing countries need to embrace Linux and open-source software. Recent versions of many applications are more than good enough for use. There is a huge library of applications developed by the software community worldwide which can be leveraged and built-upon to create an open and free (both in terms of cost and in the freedom to modify) software applications infrastructure. [Related Articles]

Local Content and Applications: To get over the limitations of bandwidth which is still a bottleneck in most developing countries, content and applications can be replicated on the local server on the LAN. This way, users see very high performance. In a sense, this is again the equivalent of IBM’s notion of “on-demand computing” – but with the content and applications coming not off the Internet, but one step closer to the user on the local network. This will optimally utilise the bandwidth that is available to each of the local computing hubs.

Local Language Support: Much of the developing world does not speak English. The need is for both content and applications in local languages. This means supporting data entry via keyboards suitably adapted for local languages, along with the display on the screen using the appropriate fonts. As a start, this means being able to do the basic activities – reading and writing emails and documents, printing and browsing – in the language of the user’s choice. [Related Articles]

Tomorrow: The Building Blocks (continued)

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Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.