CAIRO: In a matter of years the computer will become “more or less like a mobile phone, said Krishna Murthy, deputy managing director for the information technology firm Acer’s Middle Eastern business at a conference last Monday.
Since the concept of a universally affordable computer has descended from the realm of science fiction into something perhaps attainable within a matter of decades – or, by some guesses, years – researchers have devoted themselves to the cause in droves, often with an aim of expanding educational opportunities in the developing world.
“Education and knowledge is really key for the success of any economy, any country, he said. “Today in the internet arena, you can expand your knowledge base just by having a PC.
“Today, you go to talk to a five-year-old child or a 10-year-old child, their knowledge is far superior to when we were 10 years old. Because we didn’t have that equipment, we didn’t have that opportunity.
The One Laptop per Child organization is one example of this trend. The group, founded by faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005, hopes to distribute the XO-1, formerly called the “$100 Laptop – pricing expectation has since risen to $188 – to scores of developing world children.
In 2002, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology launched the “PC for Every Home campaign, which hoped to sell 7 million computers by 2009. Yet the prices (LE 3,000 to 5,000 during the first initiative and LE 1,585 to LE 3,300 in the second) were often still out of reach of many of Egypt’s poor.
Critics of the campaign have also complained of other flaws, including a strategy too narrowly tailored to aiding suppliers rather than boosting consumer’s purchasing power.
In 2006, 12 companies discussed reviving the program, revising the goal to covering 30 percent of homes by 2010.
Murthy said the government could play a positive role in popularizing PC access. “There is an initiative which we introduced in India where you give a free laptop to the University student. For three years, he uses it, and he doesn’t pay anything, he said. Once the student has a job, Murthy said, he pays back the loan over a period of two years.
Yet private firms, who are largely responsible for developing, producing and distributing the computers will play a large role, Murthy said. “Our challenge is the profitability, he said, “The expectation of the shareholders.