The minister for health and development of India in partnership with an IT company released a tablet computer this summer for $35.
It comes with a number of applications such as video conferencing application, a multimedia content viewer, Open Office suite and media player. Keeping in mind the infrastructure challenges of developing countries, a solar panel has been included for a little extra.
In most parts of the world computers aren’t household items because they are produced for rich countries where demand is high enough to support advanced technology. Econ 101 is about the relationship supply has with demand, of course. Supply and demand are natural forces guided by Adam Smith’s invisible hand, you’d be told.
But sometimes, it’s easy to miss the simple fact that demand is a function of income. High or low demand in a market is determined by the average amount of income in that market. Income is not a natural force guided by an invisible hand, it is a human force that is determined by your proximity to wealth, education, and the social circumstances that surround you.
There is now a supply of computers that works for developing populations because it matches the income of the developing market.
Think about the potential for technology that is produced for people living at the bottom of the pyramid. That includes about 3 billion people, who are (somewhat literally) dying to enter the world economy. 5 billion people on earth have cell phones! They have the potential for them to enter the market, one innovation at a time. Our generation has the opportunity to make the world economy work for the everyone, not just the few of us living at the top.
But the point I make in Part II of my study, still holds true. What good is technology if there is not regional collaboration of social entrepreneurs that promotes the improvement of all human development — across sectors. Is a $35 computer any good if half of the people in a region are illiterate? What if 25% of people in the region die of HIV/AIDS before 25 years of age? How about if the government is corrupt and blocks access?
Ultimately, there must be collaboration among the sectors; public-private partnerships must accelerate social innovation by supporting it regionally and by bringing together all sectors for human development.