Community Personal Computers (CPCs) suited to meet the requirements of the rural villages in India was launched at New Delhi on 29th March 2006 by Intel, the leading chip and PCs maker. The event was marked by the presence of senior officials of Government of India, Bollywood film director Ashutosh Gowarikar, delegates from government and non-governmental organisations, among others.
Frank Jones, President, Intel India, while speaking at the launch, said, “The Community PC launch aims at solving the problems faced by the rural regions in India. This initiative is an effort towards social inclusion, which will enable positive change in India in terms of increased technological penetration and access and thereby higher standards of living for the citizens.”
In his keynote address, Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State for Commerce, remarked, “Scalability and replicability of efforts are utmost requirements for any project to be successful. These are dependent on the cost-factor. The low cost IT solutions on mass scale are big issues and needs consideration.”
The launch of Community PC adds to the efforts by Intel, which is considering applying its technology to emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil, Russia, South America and African countries. Designed as a result of defining locally relevant computing solutions based on Intel technology, the PC platform is equipped to operate in a community setting while accommodating the varying environmental conditions prevalent in the country. The PC can withstand dusty conditions, varying temperatures and high humidity. The objectives of the Community PC includes delivery of a shared mainstream PC, specially designed to work in the harsh conditions of rural environments, providing massive rural populations access to the Internet and thus opening up a world of business and personal communication opportunities, and aggregating demand and enabling shared access thereby making entire rural communities and not merely an individual the end-customer.
With a pronounced objective to bridge the urban-rural divide, Intel also announced the introduction of its ‘Jagruti’ initiative. By collaborating with leaders in business, government, education, online services and Internet service providers, Intel’s Jagruti program would be supporting the spread of rural Internet kiosks based on the new Intel-Powered Community PCs. These PCs would be available through Intel partners, HCL and Wipro.
Features of Intel’s Community PC
• A battery back-up module that serves as an alternative source of power in environments where power cuts are prolonged and frequent.
• Low power consumption, enabling functioning in poor quality power supply environments.
• Rugged design that enables operation in the dusty, humid and hot environs of rural India.
• System Diagnostic and Recovery switch, which provides real time technical support when the system crashes and enables boot from a diagnostic partition for system recovery.
• Remote asset management features that allow enabling / disabling of the PC through a system of keys.
• Connectivity, for enabling a wide variety of wired and wireless connectivity options, including Wifi , GSM or CDMA and Wimax.
Key Product Features
Battery Power Module
The Intel powered Community PC features a battery power module that serves as an alternative power source that may enable PC operation for up to 6 – 8 hours during power outages.
The battery is designed to recharge itself during periods when the PC operates on normal power.
The battery module empowers the PC to operate in environs where prolonged and daily power outages are a fact of life.
Low Power Consumption
Architectured in such a fashion as to enable extension of the business model even in low quality power supply environments, the PC consumes less power than other comparable computing platforms.
High Temperature Tolerance Factor
Designed to operate in conditions of high temperature and humidity, the IntelÒ powered Community PC can withstand ambient temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius with ease.
The Intel powered Community PC is clad with a rust proof, dust proof casing and is equipped with a special dust filter that ensures functionality of the system even in environments that are highly dusty.
One Touch System-Management Function Button
The Intel powered Community PC features a one touch system diagnostic and recovery button, that enables even non-technically trained users to boot the system from a special diagnostic partition in the event of system / O/S crashes. Particularly useful in areas where access to service technicians is low and a system crash would normally mean a prolonged absence of the system while it undergoes repair at the nearest urban destination
Asset Management Function
Operation of the Intel powered Community PC, or its applications, may be remotely enabled or disabled through a system of passkeys, thus ensuring a high level of securitization of the asset. This is of particular importance where sensitive government information, like land records, etc., are accessed via the system.
The inaugural session was followed by an interaction with four “end users” drawn from rural areas of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, which was moderated by Ashutosh Gowariker, the noted film director from India. When asked about how community reacted to computers, all the end users were unanimous in saying that the community was excited and very forthcoming to it since they felt it is going to systemise the very process of governance and ease their burden. The interaction was followed by video and actual demonstrations from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh kiosk operators.
At the outset of the launch, Frank Jones arrived into the main hall driving a tractor and bringing along with him the “Community PC”. This was followed by a Lecture-cum-Demonstration by Will Agatstein, Vice President – Intel, and Rakesh Godhwani, Product Manager – Intel. They displayed a set of applications — adult literacy (from TCS), children education (from Azim Premji Foundation) and Entertainment (Hindi movie) — convincing the audience that the hardware is “best” (no deficient functionality) and “cheap” (shared access will bring down the costs to INR10 (US$0.22) per person per day for 3 persons over 3 years).
This was followed by talks by Intel Corporate VP Bill Siu and Amar Babu, Intel South Asia MD. They informed that the PCs have already been tested in pilot projects in locations such as Bedeti, Assam; Juna Chamu, Gujarat; Mandya, Karnataka; Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh; and Mallapuram, Kerala. Further deployments are currently underway.
“We took the proposed product to villages and made changes in accordance with the rural requirements,” said Amar Babu. He said this kind of PC would meet the e-Governance requirements. It could be used for communication (e-mail); e-Governance applications including online bill payment, processing and submission of Government documents; delivery of agriculture, healthcare and entertainment services; in education, research and information sharing; and for e-commerce activities including commodity price information, online trading and banking transactions.
Intel expects many of these Community PC platforms to be deployed in Internet kiosks. The kiosks, proposed as Common Service Centres under the National e-Governance Plan — are operated by local entrepreneurs and provide neighbouring communities with access to services including e-Governance forms (land records and marriage licence among others).
Intel also used the occasion to acknowledge the contribution of its partners like Wipro, HCL (Hardware), IIIT Bangalore (Research), HLL & ITC (Logistics) and several NGOs. They were felicitated with a memento from Intel.
There was an interesting panel discussion, which was coordinated by Professor Sadagopan of IIIT Bangalore. The distinguished panelists included Professor MS Swaminathan (who joined over a video link), Mani Shankar Iyer, Union Panchayati Raj Minister, Alok Bhargava, Chief Executive, Rural CSC Program of IL&FS (Infrastructure Leasing & Financing Services), Ajai Chowdhury, CEO, HCL Infosystems, and Rohit Kumar, Director, Public Sector, Microsoft India.
“India is not only the largest democracy with 3 million elected representatives of Panchayati Raj (village government) but it also has the largest elected representatives,” Mr. Iyer disclosed. Professor Swaminathan stressed on the need to work in “mission mode” to create rich content and reach the goal of 100,000 kiosks by August 2007. Ajay Chowdhury opined that there was a need for layered applications — literacy, e-Governance, entertainment, and communications — each though small, contributing enough to make the stack rich and sustainable. The details of the ambitious 100,000 Common Service Centres projects of the Ministry of Information Technology (under the National e-Governance Plan) were provided by Alok Bhargava.
Rohit Kumar mentioned that what Intel is launching – a platform that can scale that is maintainable and broad enough to sustain a whole range of exciting applications – is “an idea whose time has come”. He also talked of Project Shihksha of Microsoft that addresses capacity building. Finally, Intel’s Willy Agatstein talked of his thirty years experience with the IT industry. He said that the Community PC holds promise and has the potential to “double the income” of the rural community.
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