NEW DELHI, India–Indian technology firm Encore Software will soon offer a low-priced Linux-based mobile computer, the company announced on Tuesday.
In Sri Lanka I always hear that computers are too expensive to reach average people. Which is bullshit. The point of computing is that it’s actually cheaper than physical options. It’s much cheaper to provide Internet to a village than to build a library, print newspapers, run mail services, and provide adequate transportation to work. The Net can also make Trade, Government, Medicine and Education cheaper. The problem isn’t that computers are expensive, it’s that they suck.
The average computer user wants to check their email and maybe type a document. Giving them a $2000 PC with Windows XP is like giving them a shotgun to kill a mosquito. The extra features on a high-end PC are just a 100 ways for the average user to shoot themselves in the foot. Unless you’re doing Photoshop or playing Grand Theft Auto, you’re getting about $200 of value out of that PC.
That’s why a $200-300 laptop makes sense. The main cost is the display, so I’m assuming they got that down to $25-50. After that you slap some cheap components and Linux on it and good to go. People can check their email and edit documents. The Indian Firm Encore has come out with a line of laptops that range from LKR 23,000 – 34,000.
All three products support Indian languages – three of which are included on each model – and offer options for applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, a personal information manager, e-mail, a Web browser, PC synchronization and a text-to-speech engine, Encore said. Mobilis Wireless also has a built-in GPS receiver, and a GPRS wireless modem is offered as an option.
I think you can run almost everything of the Net itself, so the connection is all that matters to me. However, barring that, the thing is cheap and it fits the Sri Lankan market. In 2003 Chanuka did a survey on Rural Internet usage. 2,000 responses, of which he graphed “244 responses extracted from the responses received from five districts namely, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, Matale and Hambantota.” This is as close to market research as I’ve seen.
what people use computers for
problems they have
It is noteworthy that the Internet usage is mainly limited to four key exercises; namely receiving news, educational purposes, e-mail and entertainment. Use of Internet for purposes such as e-commerce, business interactions, Internet banking, obtaining e-government and telemedicine services etc., is not widespread. This can be mainly attributed to the lack of websites offering these services.
Among the problems the users face in surfing, high cost of Internet access, difficulties in obtaining support services, technical issues in building and maintaining reliable and fast connections and lack of English knowledge top the rest. Out of these, the price tag attached to web access is significant as 66% of the users term it high and another 25% term very high.
As long as the Mobilis Laptop can provide these services without the problems they should be good to go. Local language is vital, and I think they’re building Tamil support into the box. Sinhala would require going through the existing bureaucracy, which won’t happen unless someone hacks it in. Running Linux though, so not a problem. I think LKLUG already has a Sinhala implementation. Of course, a computer is not Internet in itself, but it does get us close to the last mile. I would, however, venture that this cheap laptop market only has 2 years before Cell-Phones eat their lunch.
I am not selling this laptop, do not contact me with requests to buy it