Restive masses grasp knowledge: outcome ?
September 29, 2005 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I couldn't resist : a $100 laptop is great, but the idea has been floating around for quite a while.
posted by troutfishing at 9:12 PM on September 29, 2005

posted by verb at 9:21 PM on September 29, 2005

Er. Color ME embarassed. I posted the 'whoops' before realizing the link you posted was completely different than the earlier MIT story.

This is cool. Still, wouldn't this link have been better as a comment in that discussion?
posted by verb at 9:23 PM on September 29, 2005

verb, you're missing the point.

And I had totally forgotten about the Simputer. Looks a bit like a Palm VII.
posted by fenriq at 9:26 PM on September 29, 2005

How many extremely poor "Third World" people are literate enough to get much use from a computer? Any figures out there?
posted by davy at 10:28 PM on September 29, 2005

Simputer, up against spyware, malicious and overactive content.
posted by nervousfritz at 10:37 PM on September 29, 2005

$240? At least here in the good ol' USA, I could easily obtain a secondhand internet-capable computer less than that. Of course, it wouldn't be portable.
posted by neckro23 at 10:51 PM on September 29, 2005

Well, in school, we were taught that 52% of Indians were literate (early 90s) i.e. 4th-5th grade education. Giving some leeway, assume percentage is 60% now (half of Indian pop. is 25 or under). That's 720 million literate people. About 7-10% are able to afford computers (starting at, say, Rs. 15,000). That leaves 600 million people. Of which, say, about 150 million, stay within or close to urban locales. Organize these into 40 million families. There's a start.
posted by Gyan at 10:52 PM on September 29, 2005

Giving some leeway, assume percentage is 60% now

More like 40% according to the CIA.
posted by pompomtom at 11:27 PM on September 29, 2005
posted by cell divide at 11:32 PM on September 29, 2005

pompomtom, from that page,

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 59.5%

posted by Gyan at 11:41 PM on September 29, 2005

I wonder did the inventor read this.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2005

By 2005, sales of Simputers have failed to live up to the ambitious goal; only 4000 Simputers have sold while the initial expectation was the sale of 50,000 units. [1] Some suspect that this may be due to the price of ordinary PC laptops dropping to the point at which the Simputer loses its price competitiveness. --Wikipedia
Market forces are more powerful.
posted by stbalbach at 8:08 AM on September 30, 2005

This is such a misguided idea. Look at that thing, who the hell is going to buy it?
posted by snoktruix at 11:10 AM on September 30, 2005

I would buy one, if only to hack.
posted by bshort at 11:16 AM on September 30, 2005

Basically, in a developing country, internet access, and really computing as a whole, is an inessential luxury for all but a few people in industry and government.
The poor masses really don't need the ability to IM each other with "let's do lunch", because they probably only eat one meal a day. And they're not going to get a lot of coding done when they can't read.
People just don't need these devices, and it's almost sick to pretend they do, when they don't have enough food and water and can't read or write.
posted by snoktruix at 11:17 AM on September 30, 2005

Duh snoktruix - you can *order* food and drink on the internet! This is a solution to all the world's problems! They should airdrop them over Iraq, so some of that freedom that's all up in the internet could leak out.
posted by freebird at 1:03 PM on September 30, 2005

snoktruix, your flippant and dismissive response to this machine is in sharp disagreement with all the research i've been doing the last two years solid. (not to mention elitist. as if it's all about "let's do lunch." what f-ing planet do you live on? if they "really don't need" it, then why do you think Asia and Africa are positively racing to get ICT to rural folks?)

people who know better and spend their lives figuring out how to alleviate poverty might differ on the hows, but pretty much everyone agrees ICT is a necessity if we are to empower the masses economically.

From fishermen and farmers getting access to weather reports and being able to bypass cheating middlemen to the simple understanding worldwide that the future of anywhere and free education is the WEB, your opinion is shared only by the most luddite of opinion writers and bloggers without a clue.

For some scholarly articles, try here and here. And here.
(These are HTML versions of PDFs found on Google Scholar)
posted by RedEmma at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2005

Somewhat tangential, but there's an interesting article in the latest Hindustan Times (sorry, in the paid section):

*9.8% of urban Indians have ever used the internet. 1.5% are regular users.
*Among Delhi and Bombay residents, 20% have ever used the internet. 4% are regular users.
*By profession, 25% of "administrative workers" have ever used it; 13% of 'doctors and engineers'; 23% of degree college students; 4% of schoolkids.

So, I guess, forget farmers and the rural popluation, the urban dwellers need access and computer literacy, first.
posted by Gyan at 11:42 PM on September 30, 2005

simple understanding worldwide that the future of anywhere and free education is the WEB

Sure, in the long term, I hope we all live in a global version of San Francisco. In the meantime though, I was merely suggesting that it is more useful to focus efforts on the real issues underlying poverty, rather some really incremental techno-buzz fluff which it seems is at present a really minor perturbation to the overall picture.

I read your links and I see a lot of hopeful optimism about the role of communications technology, but really no solid ideas about how this technology is supposed to help - except in some fairly special circumstances such as the ones you mention. I see a sort of reverse-luddism, where bringing technology to the poor people is seem as an automatic good, regardless of their needs on the ground. Almost as if a justification is lacking but the desire to fling around these buzz words is paramount (self-promoting academics looking to stand out from their peers, perhaps).

Sometimes priorities matter as much as mere "good causes". We all want poor countries to rise to the level of the western world and thus enjoy the lifestyle we in the west enjoy, but to achieve that we need to concentrate on a few key areas, e.g. political stability, disease control and prevention, access to clean food and water, electricity, basic education . I'm sorry but I dislike unfeasible technologies, which are supposed to be immune from criticism presumably due to the association with an emotional topic, almost as much as I dislike the neo-cons total lack of interest in these problems at all.
posted by snoktruix at 11:15 AM on October 1, 2005

We all want poor countries to rise to the level of the western world and thus enjoy the lifestyle we in the west enjoy, but to achieve that we need to concentrate on a few key areas, e.g. political stability, disease control and prevention, access to clean food and water, electricity, basic education .

let's get outside the idea of "technology" as being somehow high-falutin and unnecessary--would you think of radio, or the printing press or motorized transport as likewise unnecessary to the poor or rural?

nearly everything i've read about the Phillipines political crisis, for example, talks about how access to information and governmental transparency would have helped the people keep a grasp on what was going on. (e-governance has more currency in the "third world" than i've heard it talked of here in the US, because people there are far more conscious of how powerless they are politically.)

without doctors, how do you think people learn about disease control and prevention? i'll give you the point about access to clean food and clean water, but wouldn't it make sense that increased income potential would a) enable isolated communities to pay for such things and b) enable them to use their cultural resources for income or sustainable development rather than selling off to Exxon and the consequent environmental degradation of food and water resources? most of the push now in these places is toward sustainable electricity sources, like solar and wind power, rather than trying to put them on the grid. likewise, this sort of technology need not depend upon being on the grid.

the biggest push of all in Africa and Asia is toward e-learning. these are places where the physical plants for schools are seen as a difficulty that could be sidestepped. besides, in places like Nigeria, for example, the numbers of university level students who want to learn far outstrips the ability of buildings to take them in. therefore, the idea of trailer-community centers where computer access costs could be shared is a way to take pressure off, and even give students access to courses at places like MIT and Stanford. spend some time reading at or and you'll see where the people who live there see their answers, and a large part of it is in being able to wrest control of their lives away from the West via technology.

if you want a good clearinghouse of articles from all over the world, you can try the OWL Institute.

and by the way, i certainly don't want anyone to "rise to the level of the western world and... enjoy the lifestyle" we enjoy. at least, if you mean by that that everyone can have two SUVs, an ATV, a snowmobile and every other imaginable accessory attendant to a strip-mall based existence. i want everyone to have access to what they need in order to say NO to that and the degradation of the cultural touchstones they find important.

because the neo-cons are going to do their damndest to connect the world so they have full access to as many consumers as possible, and because they are the ones with all the money and power in this world--i see that the only way to defeat them is use their natural impulses and the drive of their money to give people the power to tell them to go fuck themselves. it's economic jiu jitsu, and i see it as the only answer to saving the world. for real.
posted by RedEmma at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2005

interesting. Thanks
posted by snoktruix at 7:10 PM on October 1, 2005

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