This week’s article, “Connecting the First Mile”, mentioned an ICT project called the Simputer. The author cites the Simputer as an “accessible device” for the poor and a good example of a product that takes into account the infrastructural difficulties in developing countries. Since the article was written in 2004, I decided to look up the Simputer and see what exactly it is now and how the project has fared over time.
The Simputer was developed by engineers in India specifically for use in rural areas and was designed as a low cost option that would allow computer access to many of the nation’s poor. Due to difficulties in finding a manufacturer, the Simputer wasn’t released until 2004, well after the initial hype in 2002. Although Simputer’s website states that it can be shared by a community using their Smartcard technology, the product’s cost of $240 proved to be too much for most of its original target market. Initial projections were hopeful that 50,000 Simputers would be sold in the first year, but only 4,000 were ever bought (BBC News 2004). Additionally, many of the buyers were on-the-go, young professionals, not the poor rural families that the Simputer was made for.
From the articles I read, the Simputer is seen by most as a failed initiative, and similar projects by the Indian government have not been any more successful,