A Closer Look at Rural Computing Kentaro Toyama Microsoft Research India 6th Feburary, ICCC 2005 Keynote at IIT-Kanpur
Government-sponsored lunches at a school in Tamil Nadu A well-water hand-pump in Madhya Pradesh A tractor and cart in Madhya Pradesh A field trip in Karnataka
Rs. 18000 a month! Monthly Revenue (INR) Villages data from Vivek Dhawan’s Masters thesis (IIT-B)
600,000 villages 6 villages/day x 365 days/year » 274 yrs The fastest growing kiosk project (ITC’s e-choupal) would take…
VSAT for kiosk in Kodia, Madhya Pradesh n-Logue corDECT wireless tower
Absolute minimum cost of a PC… Keyboard/mouse: $15 CRT display: $60 Power supply: $15 Disk: $40 Memory: $10 for 100MB Other silicon: $30 Total: ~$200 Processor: $30 courtesy of Chuck Thacker, Microsoft distinguished engineer
Absolute minimum cost of a PC… Keyboard/mouse: Rs. 300 CRT display: Rs. 2000 Power supply: Rs. 800 Disk: Rs. 2500 Memory: Rs. 1000 for 128MB Other silicon: Rs. 2500 Total: Rs. 10750 Processor: Rs. 1650 According to PC Quest, May 2004
Needed to break even: $70-140/mo. Monthly Revenue (INR) Villages data from Vivek Dhawan’s Masters thesis (IIT-B)
Sustainability as a business is the wrong focus for rural PC kiosk projects!
This does not mean… • A rural PC kiosk can’t be viable as a business. • ICTs have no value in rural areas. • Investing in rural ICTs is a bad idea. • Sustainability wasn’t a worthwhile goal until now. • Sustainability still isn’t a worthwhile goal for a kiosk operator or agency.
This does mean… • There is no single “killer app” for rural kiosks. • There is no single silver bullet to scale sustainable rural kiosks. • Scalable, sustainable, rural PC kiosks is a tempting mirage. • Sustainability, even when achieved, often does not make a dent in socio-economic conditions. • If we do invest in rural PC kiosk projects, the investment should go into something that lasts and will drive development!
Villages that can sustain a connected PC Income Literacy &education Knowledge- based needs Infrastructure Economies of scale Villages that cannot sustain a connected PC
Focus on Sustainability Villages that can sustain a connected PC Income Literacy &education Knowledge- based needs Infrastructure Economies of scale Villages that cannot sustain a connected PC
Focus on Development Villages that can sustain a connected PC Income Literacy &education Knowledge- based needs Infrastructure Economies of scale Villages that cannot sustain a connected PC
Monthly Revenue (INR) Villages data from Vivek Dhawan’s Masters thesis (IIT-B)
Other Possible Focuses for Rural IT • Improve on computer use in schools • Digitize panchayat administrations • Support NGOs in their work • Implement the back-end for e-government, once and for all • Assist with disaster management
This does not mean… • There aren’t PCs in rural areas. • PCs should never be put in rural areas. • Rural villagers don’t want PCs. • PCs don’t solve actual problems in villages. • Rural villages won’t be able to afford PCs one day.
This does mean… • Scaling rural PC kiosks to 600,000 villages is a dubious goal. • The total cost of a connected PC in a rural village may be too high for the value it delivers… • Especially beyond what phones can deliver • We should continue to look for other solutions… • E.g., Featherweight Computing
Summary • “Sustainability of rural PC kiosks” is distracting us from main goal of development • Put effort into enduring contributions to development, e.g., education • Technology’s place is to support these efforts • Look for non-PC-based solutions in addition to PC-based solutions
Education ¹ Information One more caveat…
Education = Information + Human Attention