Updated: 5/16/2006; 4:02:59 PM.

Digital Development
Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications


daily link  Friday, September 05, 2003


 A 'Tale of Two Cities': Bridging the Digital Divide: Speech in India by president and CEO of Philips promotes Bottom of the Pyramid markets:  "Let us see how widening access to technology for these people – by far the largest “new growth market” in human history – will in turn affect developed markets and perhaps solve some of the problems we face there.  ..

A good example is the “Health Truck” developed by Philips and now in use in Argentina. In order to meet the health needs of impoverished areas of Argentina we provided a state of the art diagnostic clinic on wheels providing free CT scans that tours rural Argentina. This initiative brings advanced medical diagnosis to thousands of patients who would otherwise have no access to such benefits.

In the field of connectivity and consumer electronics, let me tell you about another initiative specifically designed to bring the urban poor of shantytowns and even more isolated rural areas into the digital community. Almost three billion people in these situations – many of them illiterate -- need to be able to communicate with family, employers and friends even though fixed line or wireless phones are way beyond their economic reach. Our solution is called “Voices in your Hand.” This project is already being tested in Recife, Brazil .. Using modified existing MP3 players that support voice recording and playback and carry a text free user interface, people can listen to personalised webcasts of audio information offline in their homes, talk back and use voice email. Then they visit a public utility point to link their sets to the Internet via USB. It’s not real-time or on-line, but remember you can buy 40 units for 40 families for the price of even the cheapest PC.

The availability of clean, safe drinking water is identified by the World Bank as the largest single factor affecting the health, wealth, and possibly the peace of humanity. .. it’s possible to have affordable, effective, small-scale water treatment at the astonishingly low cost of 10 US cents per villager per year using the Ultra Violet Waterworks (UVW) technology. The secret is to combine solar power, direct current and UV purification on a decentralised basis. Philips has all these technologies. Already, UVW systems are being tested around the world and one Indian organisation -- Ashok Gadgil – has shown the potential. ..

For those less wealthy, the model based around service rather than ownership is highly important whenever huge numbers of people require access to technology – not the device itself. In fact it’s probable that a ‘pay per use’ basis for technology will become just as common as “owning the box” and this will be the future business model for our industry. 

A perfect example is the successful program of internet kiosks for rural areas here in India: it’s not necessary to own a computer to stay in touch. Likewise hospitals here in India (such as the facilities at and near Hyderabad and at Bangalore) have shown they are able to utilise diagnostic equipment such as CT scanners at very high rates, which make their use financially viable. .. Another important area in emerging markets is distance learning. .. Half of all households in India – that’s 100 million families - -do not yet have access to radio. We are already the largest suppliers of branded radios in the country. But if Philips could develop a radio that could be marketed for around R$s 200 – that’s around US$5 – we could enable huge numbers of people. "

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 4:02:59 PM.