A Multifunction Information Appliance
for Emerging Economies
Mythology and Reality of the Digital Divide Problem
Raj Reddy
Carnegie Mellon University
Aug 1, 2005
Talk presented at MIT Quanta Conference
Platforms to Serve the Bottom of the Pyramid
• 4 Billion People at the Bottom of the Pyramid
with incomes less than $2000 per year have not
had access to the benefits of IT revolution
– Don’t need Word, Excel and Power Point
– Need Access to affordable Entertainment, Education,
Telemedicine and Communication
• eLearning is one to many video communication
• Telemedicine is many to many video conferencing
• Platforms for People at the Bottom of the Pyramid
must have
– TV and Radio tuner chips built-in
– Video and Audio input built-in for communication apps
• Voice mail, Video mail, IP phone and Video Phone
Barriers to Entry: Digital Divide Issues
• Connectivity Divide
– Access to free Internet for basic services?
• Computer Access Divide
– Accessibility: Less than 5 minute walk?
– Affordability: Costing less than a cup of coffee
per day?
• Digital Literacy Divide
– Language Divide
– Literacy Divide
• Content Divide
– Access to information and knowledge
– Access to health care
– Access to education and learning
– Access to jobs
– Access to entertainment
– Access to improved quality of life
How can IT Help the Masses?
• Personal Development
– Life-long learning, independent of the limitations of
language, distance, age and physical disabilities
– Access to entertainment – watch any movie anytime
– Telemedicine, access to doctors and treatment at a distance
– Access to information about hygiene and safe water,
helping to reduce infant mortality
• Economic Development
– Price discovery
– Marketing assistance: eChaupal
– Find jobs e.g. monster.com
• Social Development
– Free flow of information and knowledge
– Increased transparency of Governmental Operations
– Disaster management and support for cyclones and floods
Accessibility and Affordability of IT
• Almost Free Access to Internet
– Basic services free
• up to 10 email and web exchanges per day
– Value added services at affordable rates
• access to movies
• Clear Value Proposition
– To an illiterate person in a village, the need for a PC is not obvious
– A TV and/or a telephone represent a better value proposition
– 5 in 1 multi-function information appliance: PC, TV, PVR, IP
Phone and Video Phone?
• Accessible
– No more than a 5 minute walk from home?
• Affordable
– No more than the price of a cup of coffee
• Trustable and Tamper Proof
– Preserve privacy and anonymity
– Secure and reliable repository of house deeds and land records
4Cs - Necessary Conditions for eDevelopment
• Connectivity: Fiber to the Village
• Computer Access: Information Appliance
– for use by illiterate people in rural communities
• Capacity Building: Digital Literacy for the Masses
• Content
Million Book Digital Library
Village Google
Fiber to the Village
• "A Planet Half Impoverished May Not Be Able To Get
– in "The World is Flat“, Tom Friedman
– Current cost of connectivity of $10 to $40 too high
– Even 10% of that cost would be unaffordable for those
earning a $1 per day
• Roads are free – we pay for gas; motels and mechanics
– Information highways should be free and deemed to be an
essential infrastructure
– Expected cost – 1% of building roads to the village
– Pay per use – bundled into the service
• Fiber to the Village - AP Aksh Broadband experiment
– Covering 80 million people - estimated cost $1 per capita!
– No right-of-way cost
– Fiber to home cheaper than Wifi wireless in some cases
Computer Access
Information Appliance for people without formal education
PCtvt - PC, TV, TiVo, Video Phone, IP Phone
• “Entertainment, communication and education
must be made affordable and accessible to the 4
billion people living below the poverty line”
• PCs for consumption, not creation
– For most people in a village, entertainment and
communication are of greater importance than PC
• Low cost PC: Target by 2007 of less than $250
• Total cost of ownership has to be less than 10% of
– Per Capita Income in South Asia and Africa is currently
less than $500 per annum
• Shared community access to the PCtvt for the
economically deprived
PCtvt UI Design
for Use by Illiterate Persons
• An Illiterate person needs a more powerful PC
than a PhD!
– If not e-mail, use voice-mail
– Replace Text Help by Video Help
• Radically simple design
– One minute learning time
– Two click model
– Three modes of communication: Video, Audio and
• Both Synchronous and Asynchronous
• All-Iconic interfaces
• Multiple input modalities
– TV-remote, Speech I/O, Keyboard, Mouse or Cell
Capacity Building
eLearning for the Masses
• Give man a fish and you will feed him for a day.
Teach man to fish and you will feed him for life.
(Old Chinese Proverb -- Lao Tzu)
• How to teach an illiterate villager who has never
seen a computer to effectively use PCtvt?
– Self-evident, intuitive interfaces
• Two clicks to most applications
• Learning time – less than five minutes to happiness
– Just in Time learning
• Immersive Interactive Simulated Environments
• Short video clips: Instant access to information through vast
video digital libraries in local languages
– Interactive Problem Solving
• Intensive programs for educating the local expert, the Village
Information Officer
• Teach the Teacher Programs
Village Google: Access to Knowledge for Use in a Village
• Access to Essential Information and Advice
– Medical, Agriculture, FAQ indexed and searchable
– Interactive access to Doctors, Rescue Personnel
• Agricultural Information
– Price discovery, crop disease information, weather
Access to Markets and Jobs
Disaster Relief and Management
Access to Newspapers, Radio and TV
Lifelong Learning and Education
Entertainment and Amusement
– Video Phone, IP Telephone, Instant Messaging
– Video Email, Voice Email, Text Email
IT can play an important role
in eDevelopment
• Poverty and illiteracy are no longer a barrier to using and
benefiting from Technology.
• IT can empower illiterate people by giving more
importance to voice and video communication rather than
reading & writing
• Economic development through :
Price discovery – Access to current prices
Telemedicine – Video access to a Doctor
Job exchange
Access to Information – Instant access
Education and e-learning– Be a part of a virtual classroom
e-governance – Pay taxes and bills
• Simple and easy to use communication within the village
and rest of the world
Only if we satisfy the Necessary Conditions
• Connectivity
– Free Gigabit Connectivity
– Affordable charges for value added services
• Computer Access
– At a cost of less than 5% of Per Capita Income
– At $1 per day, that is 5 cents a day for everything!
– But given 4 Billion potential users, that is $100 Billion
per year
• Capacity Building
– Digital Literacy for the Masses
• Content
– Village Google: Access to Knowledge and Knowhow
– Education
– Entertainment
Thank you!

IT for Emerging Economies