Re: [GKD] The $100 Computer

2005-03-17 Thread Guido Sohne
I noticed that Ghana came up and I wanted to make a few comments since I
am based there.

On 3/14/05, Edward Cherlin wrote:

 On Tuesday, 8 March 2005, Don Slater wrote:
 If Windows XP were sold at the price it usually commands in pirate
 markets, it would be perfectly OK.
 Not really. There is no practical way to get Windows into local
 languages. The only way Microsoft allows this, apart from doing the
 development itself (Don't hold your breath) is for a government to take
 out a license, contract out the development work, and then hand the
 results back to Microsoft to sell. This is not realistic for more than a
 few major languages.

There is not a huge demand for local language applications right now. I
am not for example, aware of a local language newspaper, though from
time to time, one sees local languages being quoted in the press,
however, these are expressed in an English encoding, since the
characters required are absent from most fonts.

It could be that there is not a huge demand because the capability is
not well integrated with the operating environment, but I would place
more weight on what is seen in the press. Radio is an entirely different
matter where the demand is very strong for local content. Local language
usage here is usually an oral affair outside of the academic

 So doesn't it make just as much sense to pressure M$ for the equivalent
 of educational licences, or simply donated software? The demand would be
 for a more appropriate pricing structure, and would be similar to
 demanding that drug companies allow or produce very cheap generic
 versions of drugs that are essential to lives in poor countries.

There are two problems that I see with a more appropriate pricing

1) The additional volume from dropping prices to affordable levels may
well result in substantively lower revenue. This is not a situation that
I would expect the companies to respond to unless they have to. Free
software may provide the necessary motivation.

2) No one is interested in a stripped down or crippled version of
standard software. People mostly want what works, what everyone else
uses. Specialists or hobbyists may say otherwise but they don't make up
the majority or even close to it. If a company could sell its product
under an appropriate pricing structure and still make money, it may
result in unwelcome pricing pressure.

To add to that, I would say the issue of licensing is irrelevant. I
think that people use the software and get it any way they can and I
consider it a reasonable practice given the local cost of licensed
software and local salaries/revenues. In return, they put up with
inconveniences due to not being properly licensed (such as Windows
Update access) and that's a decision that costs them less.

The companies are able to sell their product at prices higher than what
the majority of consumers could afford in order to maximize revenue.
Those who use unlicensed software help to ensure that the market share
of illegal proprietary software remains high. In this light, one can see
unreasonably high prices as an inducement to ensure illegal copying is
part of the culture of computer usage. Later on, technological measures
can be used to prevent actual unlicensed use (such as encountered when
installing Microsoft AntiSpyware)

 This is Microsoft's strategy in taking over Digital Partners and
 engineering a merger between Digital Partners and the Grameen Foundation
 USA. The Gates Foundation gives away hundreds of millions of dollars
 worth of software (if-sold value) to prime this market. The FOSS
 movement gives away far more software, but our if-sold value is $0.

 I tend to get worried (particularly as an ethnographer) when I
 So you should appreciate the value of local language support.


Indigenous Knowledge is a Red Herring

for my alternate viewpoint on the issue of local language with respect
to the situation in Ghana.

 see the word 'only' used in these discussions - there may seem to be
 only one solution *technologically*, but there are always multiple
 political and economic strategies, and Linux is 'only' one of these.
 Free Software/Open Source software is not a technology. It is an
 economic and political movement, away from The Tragedy of The
 Anti-Commons. Linux runs on almost every 16-bit or better computer
 architecture, including x86, M68000, PPC, Sparc, IBM 390, ARM, and many
 more, and FOSS more generally runs on every major operating system,
 including the many variants of Unix, Windows, Mac (native and BSD both),
 and a multitude of lesser products.

The confluence between software as technology and software as movement
has caused some mismatch in what values should be. Linux is excellent
software but some of the evangelism behind it appears to be floating in
the air instead of feet planted on ground.

I find it worrying to 

Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] What's on the Horizon?

2003-11-21 Thread Guido Sohne
It's hard to predict or foresee technology. Mainly, it becomes an
exercise in wishful thinking. So here are my wishes ...

On Mon, 2003-11-17 at 20:28, Global Knowledge Dev. Moderator wrote:

 1. What new high impact technologies are on the 3-year horizon? Who
 (exactly) needs to do what (concretely) to make those technologies
 widely available?

Hardware: Cheap handhelds (approx $100) that are Wi-Fi (or GSM 3G)
capable. Either as a telephone or a handheld tablet. Processing power
won't matter too much, battery life will be more important. Linux is an
ideal choice for these devices. No keyboard.

- Manufacturers of hardware should standardize on a common, modular
platform. The size of a common global market for baseline computing and
communication should be well worth it and result in truly low cost
computing. Such a system could be modular and enable manufacturers to
place their own high value components, e.g. CPU in place of standard

- Manufacturers should specifically target a low cost, mass market
device that can suit the needs of the less developed (and poorer)

- Bandwidth industry needs to make sure that Wi-Fi succeeds. The
network, the computing device and the person attached have a value much
greater than the sum of its parts.

Software: Social software - helps people keep organized and use
computers based more on their interpersonal relationships than on their
file structures. Networking moves from linking computers and programs to
linking humans and their data.

- Software developers need to create applications focussed on ease of
use and the end user experience. They need to work on software that does
groupware but breaks out of the business information mentality. It's not
about the documents, it about the people, so to speak. Right now, that's
the address book and obviously, there's a lot of room for improvement,
mostly in the need for new ideas.

- User interfaces should be keyed to voice and video. Crucial in getting
it to the largest number of people.

It's all happening already and three years will definitely see lots of
new and exciting technology. Change is about the only thing that is

 2. What's the most valuable area for technology development? Voice
 recognition? Cheap broadband delivery? Cheap hand-helds (under $50)?

Cheap broadband delivery and cheap handhelds. Entirely new types of mass
market applications are possible with this. The combination of mobility,
low cost and connectivity makes it possible to extend information
services to previously unreachable areas.

Software designed not to assume a literate user is using the device.
Obviously, this changes a lot of common assumptions.

Error messages? How many spoken languages are there? Voice synthesis
and recognition research is going to be important. There's probably a
lot of research on that already, someone just needs to put it all
together and make that into a cross-platform software library that other
projects can easily reuse.

 3. Where should we focus our efforts during the coming 3 years? On ICT
 policy? Creating ICT projects with revenue-generation models that are
 quickly self-supporting? Demonstrating the value of ICT to developing
 country communities?

3 x Yes.

 4. What levels of access should we be able to achieve by 2007 in each of
 the major under-served regions? Who (exactly) must do what (concretely)
 to attain them?

The level of internet access must increase by an order of magnitude in
each of the major under-served regions. Could be foreign direct
investment - trade. If one underserved region has 1 in 1 users,
target 1 in 1000 users by 2007. Numbers like this can be adjusted for
population density.

The aim is to grow the global market as much as possible. Investing
industries already have such a huge lead over the developing countries
that it poses no real threat to them but instead offers a means to
increase in size.

- Suitably high targets have to be set, otherwise its easier to just do
business as usual than to take a good look at it and fix it properly.

- The G7 should muster the collective will to pull this off. Political
will to use their collective financial and technological lead to pay
serious attention to human development in a profitable manner.

- People all over the world have to be educated to understand that it is
in everyone's best interest to make the world a more equitable and
peaceful place. Political will of world government leaders to push this
message for a sea change required.

Sharing the workload globally will make it much easier and what better
monument to build in this new century than one demonstrating civilized,
peaceful behaviour - a world that is simply a better place for everybody
in it.

 5. What funding models should we develop over the next 3 years? Projects
 with business plans that provide self-sustainability? Support from
 multilateral corporations? Venture capital funds for ICT and

Funds get to almost all but 

Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Bringing Connectivity to Under-Served Communities

2003-11-10 Thread Guido Sohne
On Wed, 2003-11-05 at 17:14, Robert Miller wrote:

 And, what if all the content on this server were remotely refreshed
 nightly via satellite broadcast with any updates so that those content
 resources were always current as of 2:00 AM that day and were available
 to students, faculty, and administration at high-speed using a simple,
 reliable wireless campus network?
 Yes, this is possible and it is being done today! And, it operated on a
 financially self-sustaining basis by the University or a local community
 business person who is charged with providing this reliable service.

This is very interesting to me but raises some questions related to
practical use and implementation. It basically seems that 'offline'
content is being maintained in a somewhat current state by periodically
syncing with upstream information. You mention satellite broadcasts,
which imply that the information stream is one way. This makes sense to
me, because if it was two way, why does one need to mirror content
locally, except to save bandwidth (still worth doing!)

Another question is how well this fits in with the current state of
information out there. It appears that more and more, information is
tied towards its source, in the sense that information is not being
served raw but through an application, and interacting with an
application means bi-directional information flow. Packaging it properly
will avoid the problem and enable it to be used offline. IMHO, more
efficient use of offline capability is needed to help information
penetrate into places where this solution may be used.

How much does satellite unidirectional broadcast cost versus
bidirectional communication (factor in hardware cost as well as
operational cost) ?

Practically, I think this sort of approach needs to be combined with a
hard look at equipping people with PCs on a large enough scale to really
reap benefits. Community telecentres (basically shared access) is useful
as a means of alleviating this problem but too much effort seems to be
focused on community telecentres instead of on how to put more PCs or
lower cost computing/communication devices into the hands of people.

And that brings yet another problem, that of what sort of software or
interfaces are going to enable these people to take advantage of
information, bringing yet another problem into being, of whether the
sort of information that they need is really out there. This is somewhat
assumed for granted ...

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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Bringing Connectivity to Under-Served Communities

2003-11-07 Thread Guido Sohne
On Mon, 2003-11-03 at 17:26, Ahmed Isah wrote:

 In my opinion, Cornelio Hopmann got it all wrong. The issue is not to do
 with selling a useless product that has no demand. Rather, it has to do
 with whether the target market is really aware of the benefits of the
 product to them. This then boils down to illiteracy of the benefits of
 the Internet to the user. Take my case as an example. We provide a 24 PC
 Internet connectivity in an academic environment in Nigeria with about
 10,000 students and 400 academic staff. Yet, the connectivity was not
 maximally utilised. However, when we embarked on Internet awareness
 training to the students, we now have to plan for more PCs as the
 students continue to troop in.

On the contrary. He is making some points that people tend to miss a lot
of the time. Internet as Magic Solution to the World's Problems tends to
cloud otherwise good vision.

You essentially describe a case where you are generating demand which
ties in with his point that there is little demand to start with. He is
in effect saying the the real demand is at a more basic level (pumping
more mundane knowledge into people's brains) to which I might venture to
add the possibility that this is what will drive up demand to make the
impact of increased connectivity worth the direct cost (and indirect
cost from non-executed alternatives given a fixed potential amount of

It's sort of the same as the local content issue. No one seems to know
what to do with technology in certain areas such as so-called 'sub'
Saharan Africa and this results in incomplete ideas, such as just supply
bandwidth and some fuzzy benefit and it will all work out fine.

I guess people are trying to understand how the action will connect to
real benefits especially after having seen decades of failure for
development in general.

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Re: [GKD] RFI: Computer Donations To The Third World

2003-06-21 Thread Guido Sohne
I was in a thread elsewhere that discussed this same issue and I also
thought that shipping used PCs makes perfect sense. The problem is the
actual cost of the used PCs when other overheads are taken into account.
Appended is an excerpt from an email I wrote concerning this:-

I've done a little research to put this issue in perspective ... The
website of the World Computer Exchange claims that:

WCE has shipped 6,434 computers in 21 shipments worth $1,931,200 to
connect 784 schools with 306,200 students in the following 15 countries:
Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Cameroon, Georgia, Guatemala, India, Kenya,
Lithuania, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

I pulled out a calculator and assessed the above figures.

It works out to about $300 per PC. 21 shipments implies that there are
306 PCs per shipment. Seperately, it was mentioned that it costs $20,000
per container to ship the PCs over which works out to $65 per PC.

With those figures, it appears that shipping Walmart PCs at a cost of
$65/PC (assuming it costs the same to ship them as the used PCs) on top
of the *retail* price of $199 is still below the cost of shipping the
used PCs.

At Large
A master was asked the question, What is the Way? by a curious monk.
It is right before your eyes, said the master.

Why do I not see it for myself?  Because you are thinking of
yourself.  What about you: do you see it?

So long as you see double, saying 'I don't', and 'you do', and so on,
your eyes are clouded, said the master.

When there is neither 'I' nor 'You', can one see it?

When there is neither 'I' nor 'You', who is the one that wants to see

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Re: [GKD] World Computer Exchange Article

2002-12-09 Thread Guido Sohne
On Fri, Dec 06, 2002 at 11:44:25PM -0500, Matt Rose wrote:
  3. What is the impact on recipients in the Third World? Is there no
  better and more sustainable way of getting access to PCs? Are such
  gift-horses appreciated well, or simply abused and misused by
  recipients, who feel they've got the PCs in an easy way anyway? 


 parts are getting so cheap at wholesale prices now, that it would almost
 make more sense to get cheap CPUs, motherboards, and RAM, and assemble
 them properly at a plant in the country.  I think the person (not I,
 unfortunately) who could build and sell a computer for under $100 US in
 a developing country could make a fortune, and be seen as a
 philanthropist at the same time.  I don't think this is a pipe dream,
 but something that could happen tomorrow.  We always think of computers
 as expensive, but they're just a collection of parts.  These parts are
 fairly inexpensive if you don't want the most horsepower.  I can buy a
 PDA with a 33Mhz processor that fits in my pocket for 99 dollars.  Why
 can't I buy a desktop with a 33MHz processor for half that, considering
 that most of that $99 dollars goes into making the PDA small enough to
 fit in my pocket?

I think that is a really interesting idea to build low cost computers
from components. What I am not so sure about is whether the USD $100 or
USD $200 price point is easily achievable.

I remember a time when a friend forwarded me a web page that showed a
Walmart PC for $200 and I was just flabbergasted. I had been considered
PDAs as a platform for developing applications and one of my driving,
burning motivations was - how can one reduce the cost of computerization
and bring technology to many more people ?

So coming from a mindset where I was looking at PDAs, comparing prices
and features to get a sense of what kind of value each platform can
provide, it was an eye opener to see that a full PC could reach that
same price point.

That means the PC is not going away anytime soon to be replaced by the
PDA. Or maybe not ... How many people thought the mainframe or the
minicomputer would die ?

This is not to say that the mainframe really died, it is still
available, still relevant to some businesses and operates in many of the
markets that it used to dominate.

What really happened was that the PC shipped many more units than the
mainframe did and this turned the tables. I think despite problems like
the lack of a keyboard, small display size and fewer features as
compared to PCs, the PDA is going to exhibit the same feature. It will
sell many more units than the PC, especially as its technology evolves
to counter its limitations.

Sure it will not be as powerful as a PC of the same time but it will get
powerful enough that you won't really care. At that time, the real
insight that the PDA is not about cost but about mobility and ubiquity
will come and hit you like a hammer.

The PDA will rule at the nexus of price, portability (that translates to
convenience for the consumer) and wireless internet access (websites ==
mobile data from your desk, wireless PDA == mobile data from anywhere
and everywhere).

But as soon as you do not need portability, the PC will rule, which is
why I suspect that you are focused on the optimization of cost driver
factors for your niche.

203, BusyInternet
Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall.
 -- Sir Walter Raleigh

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Re: [GKD] Using Instant Messaging with Volunteers

2002-11-21 Thread Guido Sohne
Instant messaging does not have to solely be limited to use of widely
distributed chat clients. I wrote an application earlier this year that
utilized instant messaging technology but worked by embedding the
technology into the application itself.

The business case was to improve the situation of businesses trying to
source scarce foreign exchange in an economy where the telephone system
was quite bad, making it a pain to comb several commercial banks and
forex bureaux looking for foreign exchange. Calling eight banks could
easily take the whole afternoon, and foreign exchange, especially in
large quantities, can often take a long time to source.

The answer was to create an application that published foreign exchange
rates, allowing banks and forex bureaux to publish their own rates.
Users could click on a price and chat with the person who set the price.
In addition, due to the use of store and forward technology,
disconnecting from the network and later reconnecting to the network
resulted in all price updates being received in such a manner that each
party using the system would see up to date prices in all the major

This may not necessarily be instant messaging work with volunteers, but
I think that it is interesting all the same and wanted to share it with
others, especially since I was the one who wrote the application, so it
was a labour of love.

I am considering rewriting this and generalizing the application to work
with multiple markets but this time based of a wireless handheld GPRS
device, or cheaper handheld device that can utilize the telephone

Write to me in private email if you are interested in more details.

On Tue, Nov 12, 2002 at 01:42:56PM +0100, Jayne Cravens wrote:
 Volunteer managers already have phones and email to work with offsite
 volunteers. What is the advantage of using Instant Messaging (IM) with
 such volunteers as well? UNITeS, the ICT
 volunteering initiative of United Nations Volunteers, has created a new article to help
 illustrate the advantages for using IM to work with volunteers, based on
 feedback from various online discussion groups, from our own staff
 experiences, and other resources.
203, BusyInternet
Depart not from the path which fate has assigned you.

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