Okay, so these guys might not be purely motivated by the Digital Divide issue, but that’s what makes this the perfect example of social entrepreneurship. Here is the link to the NYTimes story: SF To Go Wireless.
“You can’t continue to rhetorically talk about the digital divide and not do anything about it,” Gavin Newsom, the city’s mayor, said in an interview.
If you want to read more details about the proposal, check out this blog: Details of S.F.’s new WiFi agreement.
A 300 Kbps free tier of service for use by all residents, businesses and visitors. This 300 Kbps tier is adequate for most basic Internet tasks such as web, email and even VoIP. Assuming 30% uptake of the free tier of service, this generates more than $4 million in value per year for the community.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the government of Libya has agreed to order 1.2 million computers from Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project.
“When I met with Qaddafi, it had all the mystique and trimmings expected: middle of the desert, in a tent, 50 degrees C. etc.,” Mr. Negroponte, who was traveling to Asia on Tuesday, wrote in an e-mail message. “It took him very little time to find O.L.P.C. appealing as an idea.”
The article doesn’t put Microsoft in a very good light because it suggests that Microsoft refused to sell its Windows operating system to OLPC for an acceptable price. Also, see my related previous post on Intel’s Classmate PC.
Intel recently unveiled the ClassmatePC, a budget laptop computer that’s been in the works ever since Craig Barrett called the OLCP laptop (akfa. $100 Laptop) a toy. The two camps have differing opinions on what aspects of computing are most relevant to students in underdeveloped countries. Intel argues for affordability and compatibility with mainstream software.
How does the Classmate PC compare to the 2B1 [OLPC] laptop? With twice as much memory, twice as much storage capacity, and a significantly faster processor, the Classmate PC outstrips the 2B1 in terms of specs, and manages to do so for just over $100 more. Although some might say that the Classmate PC is a better value than the 2B1 given the pricing, the value of the Classmate PC’s superior specs is debatable in the context of computer-driven learning, and the higher cost really adds up when volume is taken into consideration.
Seeing this level of competition in this space is quite refreshing– two companies duking it out to design the better product. I’d like to see both survive, but with each product embodying such a different set of requirements, one should emerged as the favored platform in due time.
Cnet- Intel’s bridge for the digital divide
Drishtee Kiosks Harness Technology to Increase Accessibility of Critical Information and Services Including Healthcare and Education
New York, NY – Acumen Fund, a leading catalyst for sustainable, scalable solutions addressing poverty in South Asia and Africa, announced today that it has invested $1.6 million (~Rs.72 million) in Drishtee Dot Com, a rural Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platform operating more than 1000 kiosks in India that provide computer and English education, e-governance and digital photography services. Acumen Fund’s investment of $1 million (~Rs.45 million) gives it an equity stake in Drishtee and is being used to finance the growth of Drishtee’s kiosk base and officially launch Quiver Infoservices Limited, a Drishtee subsidiary that will focus on expanding and improving the offerings of the company’s kiosks, including health-related services for the rural poor. Acumen Fund is also providing a concurrent loan to Drishtee of $600,000 (~Rs.27 million).
To continue reading, head over to the press release.
To learn more about Acumen Fund, check out their website and read their blog: Acumen Fund- Entrepreneurial Solutions To Global Poverty.
While the $100 Laptop is getting much attention these days, Green Wi-Fi is doing some equally interesting work in the space.
A number of non profit entities focus on addressing the digital divide by providing internet access to developing areas. Green WiFi addresses one of the biggest barriers to success: the lack of reliable electricity in developing areas required to power the network. Green WiFi has developed a low cost, solar-powered, standardized WiFi access solution that runs out-of-the-box with no systems integration or power requirements.
Green Wi-Fi’s mission is perfectly complementary with the $100 Laptop project, and they mention it in their mission:
Green WiFi aims to compliment and extend the power and promise of initiatives such as the UN/MIT One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, Intel’s World Ahead Program and other NGO efforts dedicated to providing affordable computing capabilities to developing areas by providing critical last mile access; last mile internet access with nothing more than a single broadband internet connection, rooftops and the sun.
Now if One Laptop Per Child can get enough orders to start manufacturing, we can see some real traction here.
Earlier, I posted about Nigeria Ordering 1 Million $100 Laptops from OLPC
However, this article on Desktop Linux suggests that OLPC has already secured four million orders that it needs to begin production, and that the earlier report was wrong. Either way, its all good news. Once an official report is out, I’ll post to it.
I only have one link this weekend– The Linux Extremist raises some important questions about the distribution of the $100 laptop. (via digg)
Nigeria is the easiest and most accessible example; they have placed the first order for 1 million of these laptops. However, it’s difficult to see what mechanisms are in place so that the laptops will reach their intended recipients. Nigeria has some of the worst ratings for perceptions of corruption according to Transparency International; they are ranked 152, along with Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Furthermore, there is an existing digital culture in Nigeria which has a large, active criminal element.
Yesterday, things weren’t looking so good for Negroponte and his OLPC team, when India announced that they weren’t interested in the One Laptop Per Child computers.
However, today vnunet is reporting that Nigeria just put in an order for one million machines. Production won’t start until five to ten million orders have been put in so OLPC still has a way to go.
The Times of India (via slashdot) reports that India has rejected the idea of OLPC:
“India must not allow itself to be used for experimentation with children in this area,” the ministry has said.
Indian leaders don’t believe that the ROI of such a project would be as good as other projects they can undertake:
It would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents,” the ministry said.
This isn’t good press for OLPC but India is only one country out of many that face a Digital Divide problem.