>Raj Reddy
>The Role of Information Technologies in Emerging Economies
>The 4 billion people who subsist on less than $2000 per year income have
>more to gain in relative terms from universal availability, accessibility, and
>affordability of information and communication technologies than the affluent
>nations of the world.  The barrier that makes it difficult to realize these
>potential benefits, the so-called Digital Divide, contains many divides,
>including Infrastructure, Access, Literacy, Language, Information and
>Knowledge Access, Jobs, Health-care, Entertainment and Demographics.
>Raj Reddy, Professor of Computer Science and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon
>University, will present the 4C solution framework of Connectivity, Computer-
>access, Content and Capacity-building to overcome these barriers.  Professor
>Reddy will also describe the recent launch of an integrated multifunction
>information appliance called PCtvt which includes the functions of a PC, TV,
>digital VCR, Video Phone and IP-Telephone as an all-in-one device, targeted
>to the rural population with a clear value proposition viz., anyone planning
>to buy a TV would be persuaded to choose a PCtvt instead, for a small
>additional cost.
Dr. Reddy began his talk by commenting about how much has changed since he was a grad student at Stanford. Back then the surrounding area had lots of fruit orchards, and a gigabyte of memory cost $1,200,000. Now the memory costs 75 cents and the trees are gone. The same kinds of dramatic change have happened in communication bandwidth and device technology. He feels that the time has come for a good, simple information appliance.

The system his group has developed consists of a $500 computer with a TV tuner card, a telephone handset, a webcam, and software that makes all of the modes available with two clicks to any consumer. The device is built of standard parts available off the shelf, and could probably be gotten here for $600 retail.

The opening screen consists of a grid of icons to click on, each putting the device in a different mode. The modes are TV mode (to watch what is coming in through the tuner card), VCR, web (browse the internet), compose or read email, hear or speak voicemail, and create or watch video email, IM chat, talk on the phone, or video phone. The last three modes are synchronous, meaning the people at both ends of the line are interacting in real time through the device. There are also mode modifier switches so the synchronous links can be one to one, one to many, or many to many channels.

Dr. Reddy's friends in India that have been developing the hardware for the system keep telling him they are one week away from being ready to go to beta testing. He looks forward to doing that soon. He thinks the market for the thing will be huge, because everybody on the planet needs entertainment.

 During Q&A a number of points came up:

The four parts of the system that are necessary are connectivity, the device, computer literacy, and content. Connectivity for the system will come through stringing fiber optic cable from town to town, the cheapest way to provide bandwidth. He expects the computer literacy and content to spread and develop once people start seeing what can be done with the device.

Tian Harter