In emerging markets like India, there are five elements that need to come together to provide an end-to-end solution for computing and connectivity.
First, build a city-wide wireless mesh network. This will provide the connectivity fabric and provide an alternative to getting DSL or cable (or waiting for WiMax). The key price point for this connectivity needs to be around Rs 200-250 ($4.50-$5.50) per month.
Second, use a variety of access devices to connect to the network. These could be PCs or network computers. (One of the companies I have helped co-found, Novatium, has just such a solution the Nova NetPC.) We will also see mobile devices like the Nokia 770 and phones with Wi-Fi built in connecting to the mesh network.
Third, provide a backend computing and storage grid. This helps centralise computing and provides for seamless mobility for users. It also makes computing much more affordable and manageable.
Fourth, provide applications and content from a centralised grid to users over the wireless mesh networks.
Finally, use advertising to reduce the price that users have to pay for the service.
The key is to be able to offer the base service for no more than $10 (Rs 450) a month for the entire solution (device, connectivity and services), with additional revenue possible through value-added services.
This is what will make computing and the Internet take off in India. At Rs 450 a month, computing will become much more affordable. The wireless mesh networks help in rapid deployment. Customers can buy the access device (PC or network computer) independently and ‘plug’ it into the wireless envelope.
India needs to rapidly proliferate broadband and computers across homes, schools and small- and medium-sized enterprises. The use of network computers along with city wireless networks is a giant step in bringing tomorrow’s world to life. From a laggard in broadband and computing, India can be a leader in this space and a beacon for other emerging markets.