The reality about rural areas in India (and perhaps other emerging markets) is that power (electricity) is scarecely available, and telephone lines are either not there or don’t work most of the time. In this context, if we want to set up teleinfocentres with 3-5 computers per village (thin clients with a thick server, and using open-source software), how do we do it? I have been thinking of some of the innovations we will need in technology to take computing to the rural areas of countries like India.
1. Power: Pedal Power (Car battery, powered by bicycling – Pedal Power, like what’s being used by the Jhai Foundation in Laos), Solar or Wind Energy
2. Power Supply: Think of using a 12 Volt supply for all the PCs directly, rather than stepping down the 230 V supply for each PC as we do now.
3. Connectivity: WiFi as a wide area network, or perhaps, Wireless Mesh Networks. The key challenge is the distance – to make a wireless WAN solution work, we need it to work over distances of about 15-25 kms (10-15 miles). It would be nice to get an always-on connectivity via wireless, because then the village can just have the thin clients and the thick server could be a shared infrastructure across multiple villages.
4. TV as Monitor: The monitor is now turning out to be the most expensive part of the “thin client”. A new monitor costs about USD 100 (Rs 4,500-5,000), while an old monitor costs about half of that. A TV is already available in most rural areas, and is probably cheaper. How can we get TVs to work as computer monitors – such that we can get higher resolution displays?
Any ideas or examples of what is happening elsewhere in the world?