Anurag Jain's Blog
Friday, December 12, 2003

Emerging Technologies & Technologies for Rural areas

Here's my take on emergent tech:
* From global business point of view, I think wireless is one of the most promising technologies that have happened in recent times. WLAN, 802.11, RFID, Sensor-networks, opportunities are limited only by our imagination. Some smart people can sure come up with altogether new apps for Wireless tech.

* From emerging markets point of view, I guess anything that drives price-performace ratio down is the one that would make impact. From that perspective, Linux combined with specialized hardware (devices made for specific usage like 'mandi' info etc) seem most promising.

Specifically for rural India, I guess, the solution could lie in: "the joint ownership of the product." Rather than reducing price per piece, we reduce the 'price of ownership for an individual.' To penetrate the hinterland with ICT products such as Simputer, iStation, Tabletpc, XYZ, you need to show the PoC (Proof of Concept) to the populace that it actually works and that it actually benefits them. One can not just 'plan' and 'think' that people in rural areas need these products. One has to actually test-market such products, and I can't think of a better model than joint (or Panchayati) ownership of such a device at a village (or 5-10 houses) level.

Its sort of like 'Fractional Ownership', a concept very popular in Aeroplanes. There also, the product is too expensive for a single person to buy, and hence people go for a joint ownership. Only the price point is different in two cases (Aeroplanes vs Rural Technology Products). But the point of similarity is that, at the respective price points, the product is too expensive for the customers in both sets! And thats why the potential of Fractional Ownership.

Furthermore, I would also like to be cautious in that lets not be victim of ivory tower planning when talking of ICT4D. Lets not make people cross road when they dont want to. Remember what happened to Simputer? M just trying to say that maybe we need to think about a lot of infrastructural (e.g. availabilty of basis schools, which no tabletpc can substitute) issues before we talk about electronic devices.

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