What technologies are bringing internet and computers to developing nations

I’m not sure if this is a general question, but meh.

Internet usage is growing rapidly in the developing world, growing by 1400% in Africa, 500% in Asia, 900% in latin america and 1600% in the middle east from 2000-2009. Usage is mostly saturated in OECD nations and growth was much slower there (100-300%).


So what technologies are bringing the internet?

As an example, there are a variety of ways to get computer access in the developing world

  1. Mobile phones
  2. Thin client laptops that connect wirelessly to a central server
  3. Cheap standalone laptops like the OLPC program people own at home
  4. Cheap standalone desktops people own at home
  5. Thin client desktops (where 6-8 monitors are connected to a single tower that does processing for 6-8 different people)
  6. Computer cafes, libraries and other public/private computers for rent or use

And as far as internet access there are things like satellite, cable, DSL, phone lines, etc.
So what is being used to bring the internet and computers to Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle east? What computers and how are they distributed to help do this too?

A computer is pretty cheap. You can get one for around $200, basically order the specifications and the computer will be assembled for you. Thats how you get internet. Living in Pakistan, I found it easier to get computers related accessories than when I lived in the UK, most of them (such as moinitors, motherboard etc) were made in china or in the far east and were readiliy available.

Also “developing countries” does not mean “the entire population” in mud houses., contarary to popular opinion. Those countries have rich, poor, middle class like everone else.

Thanks for the clarification.

I’ve seen “Netbook” type computers designed for developing countries that have a crank on the side to recharge the battery, too. They’re designed for places in Africa and Asia where electricity is either intermittently available (at best) or something your uncle Mobutu still regales the villagers with tales of (from that time he went to the city a few years back.)

In northern Cameroon, most people who used the internet accessed it at Internet Cafes. In regional capitols, a Net Cafe might have 20 old but decent computers connected to DSL line. In smaller cities, like the one I lived in, it might be more like 3 ancient computers with a slow, intermittent satellite connection. Chances are in their past life these computers were used by government or business. Prices for anything imported were extremely high and an old computer there would cost you a lot more than a new computer here.

Access was expensive- it was around a dollar an hour where I lived, in an area where a dollar a day would be a decent wage. For example, my household guard made $8.00 a month. So unless you were friends with the owner, net access was too expensive for most people. In any case, only a handful of young people and some professionals (mostly from more developed regions) had any real idea of what the internet or how to use a computer. We’re talking about an area where knowing how to read was still an exceptional skill.

So the Internet Cafe in my town of maybe 30,000 could not find enough business to stay open. Now and then it would re-open and fail again. Last I heard, the nearest public internet access was a two hour bus ride away.

Dial-up service was just starting to hit my area when I left two years ago. Owning a computer was a prestige item that most government officials, successful business people, bank workers, etc. would have. It was just getting to the point where the second richest people- teachers and police- could afford one. So a few people in town might have private dial up. Once again, it was pretty expensive. In more developed parts of Cameroon, private computers and internet connections were more common.

There’s a great project One Laptop per Child - they build a cheap computer that costs only 100$ in production and runs with Linux, and give them to 3world countries.

As for internet access: in many 3 world countries, there were practically no telephones out in the countryside, because the private companies didn’t want to spend the big investment to lay cables out all over the place to connect every village, for little return (in Europe, a lot of this groundwork was done by state companies). There’s also the worry that poor people will steal the wires to sell them for the copper inside, as often happens with electrical wires. (despite the danger of electric shock).

But today, with mobile phones, it’s profitable to put up one tower, and charities collect old but working models in the first world (where people upgrade to the newest shiniest model regularly), and distribute them, so each village has at least one phone to call in case of emergency.
Solar cells can then be used to re-charge the accu, earning small shop owners a few extra cent.

Those are a some interesting suggestions in the OP, but I think none of the thin-client/multi-head/etc. are used.

Everyone (who doesn’t have their own cheap used computer and ISP), can afford an internet cafe. (Ok, maybe not in Cameroon.) Really, people are so decadent thinking everyone should have a computer in their own masturbation lair–i mean bedroom.

OLPC is a horrible failure (especially since it uses a non-standard OS that doesn’t teach kids anything about computers). And everyone has cellphones, but you can’t use the internet from them. What do you think, they’re iPhones? Come on.

Kyrgyzstan checking in. In the capital Bishkek, most people are using either dial up or G2 cell connections. DSL is available, but very limited because of the quality of the lines. Even dial up is a problem because of line noise. Power is also a problem. Quality is not very good, and we have a power outage 3 or 4 times a week.

Home computers can vary widley from top of the line gaming systems to systems barley running Win95. Most fall closer to a decent Windows 98 system. Very few people even have home computers. I stay away from goverment buildings so not sure what kind of systems they run. Piracy is growing here. You can go into any of the major malls and find stores that sale burned movies, music, games, etc. I know there is someone living near my apartment that is pirating as it is very common to find empty CDR boxes in the trash. Have also seen 10 - 15 empty CD-R drive boxes.

There are internet cafes all over town mostly for VoIP phones. Alot of the population here works overseas, and VoIP is the cheapest way to talk. From the signs it looks like the average cost is a penny or two a minute depending on where you are calling. The internet cafe down the street from my place has about 30 or 40 PCs that run Win98.

Cost of components are cheap if you don’t mind a knock off from China. If you want the real thing you are going to pay. Cost of internet I don’t know. Most of my surfing is done at work. My G2 connection at home I have only had for a week. I have loaded about $25 on it, and pulled down 75MB or so. Not sure how much is left.


Do you know what the infrastructure in developing and 3 world countries is like? Do you know how much it costs for companies or the state to invest in fiber optic wires to get full speed? And how much percent of the weekly budget a visit in an internet cafe could mean in a poor economy?

Why? How do you mean that? Because they aren’t getting them out fast enough? It’s a charity.

Um, what? It’s a Linux system, not an obscure non-standard thing. You know how widespread Linux systems are, don’t you? Often behind the scenes on the servers, so your local PC at your workplace still has Windows.

And the goal isn’t to teach kids programming, if that’s what you mean “about computers”. Using the mouse, operating a menu are basic skills that are necessary on any computer, regardless the OS. Using a spreadsheet program, writing documents in Open Office is 90% transferable to working with Excel or Word. Because, maybe you haven’t seen this because you have never used Linux, I don’t know, but the aim of the Linux community is to make their front-end more accessible to normal users by making it resemble as much as possible Windows. So the normal user sees very little difference in working with Linux or with Windows. Once the kids have mastered the basics of writing letters on a computer, they can use that easily on other systems.

There are other cell phones besides iPhones that can acess the internet. In fact for ages before the iPhone people used cell phones to call up their provider, and then connected it to their laptop. Surfing was slower than a standard connection, but better than nothing.

I really don’t know why you are jeering, but you come across as somebody who doesn’t know the wider areas of computers or phones.

OLPC doesn’t use a Windows-like GUI. They pulled something else out of their ass, and it doesn’t teach kids these things. I think the most important part of having a computer is having one that has something like Mac OS or Windows (or even Gnome)–an intuitive, yet powerful GUI that you can learn just be poking around. The learning and the poking strengthen the brain as much as teaching real-world skills. By opting to use their own dumbed-down UI, the OLPC does everyone a disservice. More generally, the OLPC came in too late. You can get a “real” netbook (running real Windows and other real software) for the same cost nowdays.

Cell phone data is very expensive in the US. Is it cheaper in the 3rd world?

So what are you trying to say? It’s more accessible to have a person computer in the bedroom? :rolleyes: Internet cafe is the most accessible you can go. If you don’t have that, then you have nothing, and the OP was specifically asking about people who do have Internet access.

Not arguing the failure status or not, but what the hell is “non-standard” about Linux? And how doesn’t it teach kids “anything about computers”?

'course you can. Everything from EDGE on up. And the iPhone is not the be-all and end-all of connectivity. My old motorola did internet just fines, as does my new Nokia.

Cellphone is certainly the most pervasive and reliable internet connection medium in my country, and I’m sure the rest of the continent. Copper wire gets stolen all the time here, sometimes wiping out the DSL and land line coverage for whole regions. Cell towers, not so much. I don’t think you realise how much adoption of mobiles there has been in Africa (Ahead of the curve in the States, only just behind Europe), and how much of a change it has made to people.

More accesible than the phone in your pocket?

…and this is a good thing. But anyway, the OLPC allows dual-boot with windows, so the whole argument is null, anyway.

This is a blatant mischaracterisation. Sugar is* purposefully designed* to be easier for previously computer-illiterate kids to use. It wasn’t pulled out of anyone’s ass, unlike your opinions of it, it seems.

Which things? How to constantly reboot your machine? Or the joys of having system crashes when you open that last tab too many? It does what it’s supposed to - tell me, have you ever actually tried it?

I disagree. The most important part of having a computer, for these kids, is the ability to connect to the world and the ability to access information. Not that Sugar doesn’t encourage poking around - FFS, the thing is written in Python, that’s a lot more amenable to customisation by users than fecking C++.

You say “dumbed down”, I say “targetted”.

Netbooks don’t have the same goals as OLPC. Plus, do you really think there’d have been as much interest in netbooks now without the kick-off provided by the project?

One of the ways internet access is being sold in many european countries is through “dongles,” small USB “modems” which use the cell phone network instead of the cabled network. Coverage is as wide as the ISP’s phone network; speed is worse than for fiberoptic - but much of the UK, Italy or Spain is still getting used to DSL; depending on your location, slowpoke DSL at that. Considering how much it would cost to lay fiberoptic down throughout the country and how much easier it is to get cellphone coverage, it’s perfectly possible that those countries will never get fully “fibered.” The price for my Spanish monthly dongle subscription is similar to what I’d pay for high speed DSL - which is unavailable where I live.

These aren’t 3rd world countries, but the “dongle” technology is perfectly transferable to one.

I’ve worked in about 20 developing nations and I can say that in my experience cafes are the most common form of access to the internet. You can find one in almost any town of any size in much of the world.

What, really? Could I have a cite for that?

I’ve never been anywhere in the UK that didn’t have access to DSL/ADSL broadband. And the lowest broadband speed my ISP does in the UK is 10mb/s.

China has internet cafes all over. You have to get really out into the sticks not not find one.