SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) are aplenty in the world about 25 million of them form the most crucial links in global supply chains. The majority of them are in the worlds emerging markets, where the costs of technology limit their adoption. And yet, they (and their bigger enterprise brethren) can be the biggest beneficiaries in terms of real-time information access if SMEs can provide a connected computer to every employee. This is where the Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) can come in.
What the 5KPC makes possible is a low total cost of ownership for computing. The mix of low-cost computers as thin clients, open-source software, server-centric computing and WiFi can help bring down the aggregate cost of computing and communications to about Rs 500 (USD 10) per employee per month (Rs 18,000 over a 3-year period), which would be about a quarter of the alternative (a new PC with Microsoft Windows and Office). Of course, today most SMEs end up using pirated software, so the actual cost may be lower. But then piracy is not a long-term solution to the rising costs of desktop software.
First, let us look at the four stages of technology deployment in enterprises. In the first phase, SMEs need to get email. This means setting up a messaging server on the LAN with email addresses for the staff of the form name@companyName.com. Email lets the SME begin electronic interactions with customers and suppliers. In the second phase, computers need to be given to all this is where the 5KPC can now it affordable to put a computer on every desk. The impact of email and other new technologies is limited if only some of the people in the enterprise use it.
In the third phase, SMEs need to now leverage the computing infrastructure to make sure that the staff become productive at what they are doing. Collaboration software, digital dashboards and knowledge management solutions can help make individuals and teams more efficient within the enterprise. In the fourth phase, SMEs can now start using business automation software an integrated eBusiness suite can consolidate all the information and make it accessible for all. It entails a rethink and re-engineering of key business processes and information systems keeping in mind that a computer is available on every desk. This is the vision of the intelligent, real-time enterprise, one which is also plugged into the extended value chain.
In this SME environment, at the heart of the technology infrastructure is the 5KPC. The Rs 500 per month cost ensures that anyone earning more than Rs 5,000 per month can be given a 5KPC with immediate returns if that person can be made 10% more productive through its use. And that is definitely an achievable goal. The low-cost computing and communications infrastructure that the 5KPC enables can help enterprises better leverage information and knowledge. By ensuring universal access to computing, it bridges the enterprise digital divide.
Tomorrow: SMEs (continued)
TECH TALK The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem+T