TECH TALK: Next Billion: Innovations Needed

To reach the next billion users in homes and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the worlds emerging markets, the computer industry needs to innovate. The target market is large consisting of 4 billion people, and according to a Financial Times report, 600,000 mid-sized businesses and 76 million small businesses globally. Just the SME market is worth about USD 140 billion in technology spending. What has gotten us here to the first 500 million users will not necessarily take us ahead to the next billion.

Even as countries like the US see huge benefits from IT, users across the technological chasm still languish unable to afford the solutions that they so desperately need. In an ideal world, technology would be priced based on the purchasing power of the users, but that is not the case. In fact, in countries like India, due to the tariffs imposed by the governments, there is a likelihood of the prices being even higher in dollar terms! The result is non-consumption of hardware, and piracy of software.

The need is for disruptive innovations which become the bridges to cross the digital divide that is pervasive in the developing countries of the world. This collection of innovations can bring about huge change and the creation of markets which today are invisible.

1. All-In-One Server-Software Solution

SMEs need a simplified IT architecture because they do not have the trained technical staff to manage the complexities of todays computers and networks. What they need is a single server which runs all the software they need right from messaging and security, desktop computing applications, information management and the business applications. To support homes, the server can be connected over Ethernet, fibre, cable or DSL to the thin clients.

Imagine a server that can run Linux and Windows simultaneously, to support applications which require either of the two operating systems. What is needed to make this happen is a clone of two software solutions which exist VMWare, which creates virtual machines on a computer, and Windows and Linux Terminal Services. In the case of Linux, the solution already exists in the form of the Linux Terminal Server Project. This way, the desktops can be thin clients with all the processing and storage happening on the server.

Think of the server as software-in-a-box. It should be an appliance, which comes with the appropriate software pre-installed. Updates can be done via the Internet. Management of the server can be outsourced, and can be done remotely. In addition, all storage happens on the server, thus simplifying backup and restore procedures.

In many ways, the server-software solution can be thought of as an example of grid computing only, the grid is distributed. Each server becomes like a junction box, present on the premises of the enterprise or in a residential neighbourhood. By centralizing processing and storage, technology becomes much more affordable. At the same time, we are leveraging the relentless progress in technology capabilities the ever-increasing processing power in chips and the growing disk storage capabilities.

Tomorrow: Innovations Needed (continued)

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Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.