Friday, September 21, 2007

Is $100 PC a solution to world digital divide?

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed, at the World Economic Forum, by UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis and OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte, a founder and the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Laptop per Child (OLPC) program.

OLPC will be implemented first in seven diverse and very large countries. The plan is to have the government buy the machines to be given cost-free to students. In the case of least developed countries (LDCs) and poor countries, the UNDP will work with OLPC and other UN agencies on the ground, to assist national governments to deploy the laptops to targeted public schools with a variety of internal and external funding sources.

UNDP's global network is present in 166 countries, and has extensive experience in using information and communication technology for sustainable development. It will work with local and international partners to design and develop programms to deliver OLPC technology and learning resources to schools in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).The $100 laptop is an inexpensive, robust computer, with open-source software, and very low power consumption. The laptop was designed to give children in developing countries access to knowledge and educational tools. A working prototype of the product was showcased at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November 2005.

OLPC is anon-profit organization set up to oversee the project. Six companies – Google, AMD, Red Hat, News Corporation, Nortel, and Brightstar, provided $2 million each to fund OLPC and the initial laptop design.

Corporate interest in producing these computers has been high. After reviewing several bids, OLPC announced in December that Quanta Computers would manufacture the laptop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Root causes of poverty?

Express your thoughts on the root causes of poverty.

To start the discussion, I will put forth a simple "downward spiral theory" as what I call it.
Assume a family is currently in a state of basic sustenance but without much savings (i.e. the earnings barely match the spendings of the family). My theory is that one of the main causes of driving such a family into a state of poverty is an "action" that triggers a downward spiral where the family is forced into a situation where the spending drastically overshoots the earnings for a short timeperiod. This leaves the family in a big debt trap that they are unable to come out of.
Now if this negative cycle continues for a prolonged period (say 2-3 years), then it would make it much harder for them to come out of it. The moneylenders who milk this situation by lending money at exhorbitant rates further worsen it.

In my opinion, healthcare has been a main cause of poverty in Africa. The average expectancy in Africa is in the 40s. So an average person gets ill in the mid 30s and ends up spending a big chunk of their earnings on healthcare. Some statistics state that in certain places more than half of the earnings is spent on healthcare. Also, a very low expectancy rate drastically reduces the working population which is critical for maintain the "earnings" in a family. In Africa, I feel healthcare costs drive the downward spiral.

your thoughts?

What can ICT do for poverty alleviation?

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can potentially be used as a tool to aid in poverty alleviation. Do throw in your thoughts on how ICT can be used in poverty alleviation. Provide suggestions specific to how ICT can aid in development in specific areas like healthcare, agriculture , education etc or throw suggestions on how ICT can be useful building block to tap the rural market.