"Simputer stands for 'simple, inexpensive, multilingual
computer.' It was designed to meet the needs of rural villagers in
countries such as India, Malaysia, Nigeria and Indonesia. Many of
these potential users are illiterate and have never even seen a
computer before. Loaded with some elementary software, the Simputer
will sell for about $250 (or $300 for a model with a color screen).
That's a sizable chunk of the yearly per capita income in many
developing nations. But the Simputer's proponents argue that a
single device could enable an entire village to access the
Internet, perform transactions, keep track of agricultural prices
and educate its children. Says Shreyas Patel, a consultant to
Encore who has been setting up pilot tests of the Simputer in East
Africa: 'This will bring computing power to isolated communities.
It can have an enormous impact.'
"The Simputer was conceived by a team of computer scientists at
the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. To make the machine
cheap enough to sell in poor regions, the developers kept the
hardware requirements to a minimum. The Simputer's microprocessor
is an Intel Strong-ARM chip, which is known for its low power
consumption. The device will have as much as 64 megabytes of
random-access memory and 32 megabytes of flash memory, as well as a
modem that can connect to a telephone line. And the computer runs
on the Linux operating system, which is available free of
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