The problem then is how can the ICT tools and knowledge goods be delivered to the rural population and what mechanisms exist for facilitating access to them. We present two solutions. The first is related to primary and secondary education, and adult education as well. This is through a model that is implemented at the village level called a TeleInfoCenter (TIC). The second solution is related to the improving market access and providing vocational training. The model is called Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons (RISC) and is implemented at a level of a cluster of villages. Like the problems, the two solutions are complementary as well.
There are four technology building blocks that we need to look at as we understand the potential of ICT to transform rural areas. The four technology building blocks are thin clients, server-centric computing, open-source software and WiFi. Together, they make up what we have termed as the 5KPC ecosystem, with 5KPC meaning a Rs 5,000 (USD 100) Personal Computer. We will first discuss the building blocks, then show how they can be used to construct the TIC and RISC centres which can facilitate the delivery of both education and market access, along with other services.
The computer is a multi-faceted, transformation device. However, so far, access to it has been limited in rural areas to setting up kiosks with 1-2 computers. Deployment has been restricted largely because of the cost of the computers and the high cost of servicing a highly distributed base, along with the lack of availability of reliable connectivity. The 5KPC ecosystem is a solution which enables the creation of an affordable computing and communications infrastructure. By being able to reduce the total cost of ownership and simplify management of the connected computers, it becomes possible to deploy this infrastructure cost-effectively across rural areas. The 5KPC ecosystem makes real the vision of providing a connected computer accessible to every family.
The first building block of the 5KPC ecosystem is the thin client. There is no local storage and only limited processing which happens on the thin client. It handles the user inputs via the keyboard and the mouse, and provides the graphical display via the monitor. All keystrokes and mouse clicks are sent to the server for processing and the resulting screen is shown to the user. The thin client can also be thought of as a computer terminal. Any computer produced over the past decade (a Pentium class system) can become a thin client.
Tomorrow: Solution Building Blocks (continued)
TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India+T