Computers for a Billion People

HCL Infosys launched India’s first mass produced computer for under 10,000 Rupees. This could turn out to be a watershed event in Indian mass computing. Pricewise, it puts the computer on par with the most common electronics gadgetry….the TV, Fridge and Washing machine.

Reading this brings back nostalgic memories of when my dad bought me my first pentium based desktop for a huge sume of Rs 75,000. This was late 1995, and having a computer then, made me the “kid on the block”. To put things in perspective, my second hand motorcycle (KB 100) cost 15000 Rs and a new one would cost 35000 Rs at that time.

Technological advancements in hardware and systems have brought the cost of computers down world wide. Today it is possible to buy a name brand entry level computer in a major store in the US for under 500$.

With the advent of cheap computers, what still remains a bottleneck, is the information pipeline. More widespread internet availability is needed. Broadband and wireless conectivity will go a long way in helping these computers become the powerful tools of learning they are designed to be.

To quote from the article

At present, India has 15 million computers and five million net connections. The government wants to increase the number to 75 million computers and 45 million net connections by 2010.

Now compare that with the statistics for our “friendly” neighbor China

THE number of web users in China, the world’s second largest internet market, grew by 9 million people in the first half of this year to hit 103 million, the China Daily has reported.

and for the USA

Internet Usage Statistics:202,888,307 Internet users as of June/2005,
68.5% of the population, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

If India is to be a global player along side China, the politicians and industry leaders need to think hard to bridge the gap. When discussing internet connectivity with some friends here, they were amazed to know that India, a country they call to get their computers fixed, still has more modem dial-up connections than broadband, and how much of a hassle it can be to get good reliable connectivity, leave alone the high-speed version of it.

Private sector companies could also donate a whole bunch of them to public schools and libraries in mofussil areas of the country. This would help rural india come abreast with the internet, and will bring the world to the village, a lot quicker.

It brings to mind “The Global Libraries Program “ of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation has supplied every single public library in every town and village of USA with computers, software and internet connectivity. This has brought about a tremendous boost in the way internet is perceived in American lives today. Like the telephone before it, the internet is now deemed a necessity and not a luxury.

Soon the day come, when it happens in India too.

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