This company has been undertaking serious investigation of this problem
since 1999. We believe that there are three main reasons why the
"Computers to Africa" type of strategy is less than ideal:-

1. These 'Western' PC's are designed for relatively short lifetimes in
Western conditions. They are cooled by fans using air at ambient
temperature, and several components have a greatly reduced MTBF (mean
time before failure) when run at higher or fluctuating temperatures.
They also suffer from ingress of red African dust!

2. The costs of upgrading PC's in Africa is high. The later versions of
Windows, Word, Explorer etc are often required in order to maintain file
compatability with other users. Yet these software products require
large quantities of RAM & hard-disc space and high processor speeds.

3. The effects of user-mistakes, virus attacks and configuration
problems are greater than in "The West". In Africa there are fewer
'technicians' who can quickly rectify these problems, and less knowledge
amongst the wider population about how to guard against them in the
first place.

All three factors add significantly to the TCO (Total Cost of
Ownership).

Our solution:-

We're designing the Solo computer to be built in the Developing World
countries, close to the intended rural user-base.

The Solo runs Linux, and will normally employ solid-state drives instead
of rotating magnetic media. (Floppy drives or CD's can temporarily be
connected via USB if required). With no inbuilt mechanical devices,
expected lifetime is in excess of 10 years.

The prototype Solo computers have been running on solar-energy, taking
12 watts of power including the 14-inch screen (ie this is not a small
PDA-type monitor!).

We are just running up the first few pre-production models of the final
design of the Solo, now using a new ARM-9 processor. Initial tests show
that this has increased processing speed by a factor of FOUR, whilst
reducing the power requirement to a maximum 8.5 watts!


When compared with a "free-gift" of a 2nd hand PC from The West, the
Solo will still appear very expensive. However, the opportunities to use
free energy to power it indefinately, and the other low running costs
should make it a more viable prospect.

In order to give the best possible opportunity to the Developing World,
the Solo Design Team has elected not to manufacture these in Europe. So
please don't ask for one!

Instead, wait until you hear of Third-World based Manufacturing Units
and please give them your orders. Info on http://www.explan.co.uk/solo/


On Wed 11 June, Daryl Martyris wrote:
> [...]
> Things get a bit trickier when it comes to educational software
> compatibility, but even here there are applications such as the freeduc
> set of applications which operate independent of OS.

There are a number of software developers here in the UK who are talking
to us about the creation of new educational software production under
Linux.

These companies have an excellent track-record in such matters since
they were the publishers of the vast range of educational material that
was released for the Acorn computers, which dominated the UK and
Australasian schools market until 1994 (when Acorn joined forces with
Apple).

It is too early for us to discuss the details of these new proposals,
but we are intent on laying down the ground-work to facilitate
multi-lingual operation and ease of translation of this software between
languages with different font classes.

The software won't be free, but it will be of lowish-cost (whole-school
site licences), high quality and will not make great demands on memory
and processor speed.


Apologies for the length of this posting. I hope the positive news it
contains will compensate for my being too wordy!

-- 
Paul
---------------------------------------------------------------------
   __/_        Paul Richardson
  | /          ExpLAN Computers Ltd.              +44 (0)1822 613868
  |--                 RISC OS Computer Sales and Software Development 
  |/___               PO Box 32, Tavistock, Devon  PL19 8YU  Gt.Britain
  /            [EMAIL PROTECTED]
---------------------------------------------------------------------



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