AMD moves computers to Uganda, Brazil

While Negroponte works the speaker circuit, AMD's 50x15 program is moving boxes to rural schools.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

If not one laptop per child, why not at least a couple computers per school. In the developing world, most schools have a ratio of zero computers per child. Addressing the digital divide, AMD delivered something called the Personal Internet Computing (PIC) device to Uganda and Mexico last week, ABC News reports. Under AMD's 50x15 initiative, it hopes to deliver Internet access to 50% of the world's population by 2015.

Working with the the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), AMD hopes to connect 600,000 schools with 31 million PIC devices.

The PIC is essentially a PC without a monitor. It is based on a modified version of Windows CE and is a closed system so it is virus and spyware-resistant. It comes preloaded with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation viewer, e-mail, media player, and instant-messaging software. It is also made to withstand extreme conditions such as temperature and dust.

The problem is monitors. Uganda's arcane import rules impose higher duties on monitors than other equipment. In any case the rules are one thing and what actual Ugandan customs agents charge is quite another. As Eric DeRitis, a spokesperson for AMD, said: "One of the challenges we have with 50X15 is working within the kinds of import infrastructure that exists around the world."

In Mexico, AMD is working with Telmex, a telecommunications provider, to distribute the devices. AMD priced the devices at $185-$240 but DeRitis said that Telmex may have a different pricing structure that is slightly higher.

A crucial part of the project is training.

"We don't simply airdrop hardware," DeRitis said. "We go in with partners that cut across a wide spectrum of organizations from hardware developers, software developers, banking and finance organizations, and others so that we can put together a full localized ecosystem to train people to use this equipment and to understand it."

"Interestingly, a computer for children around the world is not necessarily alien to them," DeRitis said. "They've had almost no access to them but there is this understanding that there are these things called computers. There are some schools in various countries that have at least a small selection of computers. Chances are they're probably old but because of that, students and teachers in some cases have a basic understanding."

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