Poor nations gain more choices in computing

There is debate on whether developing nations should invest in computers over classrooms and textbooks

And it's important to have Rwandan kids using the computers. "If you give a child a laptop, you have put that kid on par with a kid in Europe," he said.

His nation bought 10,000 OLPC laptops last year, and plans to purchase 20,000 more this year, despite the huge issue of cost to his country. It's important to have kids start to learn how to use digital devices and the Internet as soon as possible to help build an information technology economy in the country, he said.

"You need access to the devices," he said. "You cannot learn to ride a bicycle without the bicycle."

But since the cost per child is such an issue, he said the company that offers the lowest cost will win in Rwanda. And there are alternatives to OLPC, even beyond rival low-cost laptops such the ClassMate PC and Asustek's Eee PC.

NComputing, a for-profit company, is taking a different approach that could end up costing far less than such laptops. The company uses virtualization to essentially turn a single PC into a mainframe serving between seven and 30 workstations.

PCs are so powerful these days that they can serve far more than one person with little impact on user experience, unless the person is using the PC for gaming, scientific calculations or multimedia, said Steve Dukker, chairman and CEO of NComputing, in a phone interview.

"You can call us the unexpected benefit of virtualization," he said.

The NComputing system cuts costs tremendously. The cost per child of each NComputing system, for seven users, is $US70 each, in a system running at just 1 watt per user.

Those are the kinds of statistics, per user cost and wattage, that make a difference.

Hitting a cost of $100 per OLPC laptop is actually easier than making a system that uses less than 2-watts of power, OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte said in an interview earlier this year. Power is both a cost and access issue in most developing nations.

NComputing's biggest sale so far has been to schools in Macedonia, where Dukker said the machines pay for themselves in power savings in just six months.

"Electricity in the developing world will cost five times what it costs in the US," he said. Many countries don't have power grids up, and most don't buy enough oil, coal or other materials to gain bulk cost savings like the US does. Other sources put electricity costs higher than his estimate, at six to 10 times what it costs in the US.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?