I read the article ‘Digital deficit’ with interest.
I am amazed at the pricing that may be possible for PCs and am sure this will help the march of computer technology into new areas — including developing countries.
I also admire those willing to contribute their skills to this on a not-for-profit basis. So I feel slightly churlish in raising a dissenting voice.
It’s not that those countries working hardest to develop don’t need computing, but is this really the technology most in demand?
Mobile telephones are advancing into Africa and the demand for them is such that development has been commercially driven. This brings challenges. Do you subsidise commercial networks or compete with them? How do you marry commercial and development needs?
These are genuine commercial dilemmas. Donors will often support a technology where there is less demand than developed world interest (for example, IT centres) rather than meet a real need that has an existing commercial interest, as with mobile phones.
Seen from a purely engineering perspective, the cost of extending mobile network coverage to 95 per cent of the African population would be substantially lower than the cost of establishing IT centres for the same percentage of people. And the development impact would be far greater.
Reducing the costs of computing in developing countries is valid but this should be matched by support to telecommunications networks.
Perhaps the future African computer will be a mobile phone.
Dr S Foister
Supplier Relationship Management