Monday, January 31, 2005

Digitizing the Developing World

The Red Herring has an interesting article on "The Hundred-Buck PC". A noble idea, and one that follows well with C.K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. By making low-cost products that can be marketed to the poor, a company can make a great deal of money and also help develop those at the bottom of the societal pyramid. Whether or not this is ethical is beyond the point.

One question I have is how accessible this portable computer will be. In terms of $100 per PC, it's still out of reach of most poor people, though using it to create community centres or kiosks seems to be feasible. I'd be interested to get a hand on one of these computers and test their durability.

Language requirements are another important question. Most of the developing world doesn't speak English and many people are illiterate. If more people get access to this technology, internationalization of software will become an important factor. And for this, I recommend a solution that uses XML-based User Interface representation languages (open source, of course) that will allow volunteers to translate interfaces into local languages. It's doable, and with MIT, Google, and other companies expected to work on this project, it can set a standard for the IT industry.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


The Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research (I2R) is a project I've been trying to start for a few months now. Originally a mentorship program for high school and university students and available at, the site and program is going through an identity crisis. I set a goal of having a complete business plan for I2R by August 31, 2005, and this blog will be where I post research, thoughts, and brainstorms.

While I do not know much about what I2R will be, I'd like it to be either a business or some sort of institute or laboratory. Either way, it will deal with promoting interdisciplinary approaches to today's problems - by fusing mathematics and computer science with the social sciences, it will be possible to learn more about people and humanity, and help the world become a better place.

That's all for now, but I hope to update this page regularly with articles, ideas, and so on.