by: David Polinchock
Dr. Reddy made an excellent presentation last night about the PcTVT. He's really doing some cool work and if there's anyone who can pull something like this, it's him! Here's an article about the project, some article additional links and the pdf of the presentation that he gave last night at the Lab.
Download the presentation: Download PCTVT.pdf
The digital divide is something we talk about, but what actually is being done about it? The actual accomplishments of trying to bring the fruits of information technology to the masses is quite negligible compared to the pious protestations and hot air the debate has generated.
Some interesting pioneering work has indeed been done: farmers emailing in Tamil Nadu or distance education elsewhere in India are fledgling, noble efforts, but this hardly begins to scratch the surface of the problem.
The fact is that the problem is really, really daunting. The millions of impoverished masses in developing countries (and substantial number of poor in inner cities of Western developed countries, if truth be told) remain culturally, economically far removed from the affluent world of hi-tech gadgetry: They simply do not have the basic skills necessary to be comfortable with IT technology.
Yet there is absolutely no hope of even the ghost of an equitable society in the future unless this divide is bridged in some way.
Enter an internationally acclaimed pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence with a $250 gizmo that does a whole bunch of things: It's a computer, it's a TV, it's a DVD player, it's a videophone -- it's a PCTVt.
"I kept asking myself, 'What would the device have to do for someone on the other side of the digital divide, to be desirable?' " wondered Raj Reddy, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The answer, he decided, was a simple device that would offer entertainment.
This November, Reddy hopes to begin installing the first 100 prototypes of the PCTVt in India and possibly several other countries.
Reddy is hoping his project -- with backing from Microsoft and TriGem, the Korean computer maker, and in partnership with the Indian Institute of Science, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley -- can prove that it is possible to bring IT to impoverished communities without depending on philanthropy.
Because his low-cost computer doubles as a TV and a DVD player, Reddy believes that he will be able to use it as a vehicle to take computing to populations that until now have been excluded.
N. Balakrishnan, a professor with the Supercomputer Education and Research Center, IISc, says, "In India, entertainment is a key driver. Because of this, the number of TVs is more than the number of phones. For progress to happen on the connectivity front, the number of Internet connections should equal the number of TVs and telephones. One cannot expect the number of users to go up unless the cost of PCs come down."
"We needed three decades," Reddy said, for those technologies to help developing nations.
Reddy's team is also working with social scientists to determine the effect that access to this technology has on communities.
Link: Siliconeer: September 2004.