Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Solo Transportable Computer

It seems this is the era of ICT-related contraptions and innovations, from the Simputer to the sub $100 laptop, and they all have one aim: bridge the digital divide.

Given the errant power supply in Nigeria and limited infrastructure, is there any computer that is adaptable to the African/Nigerian terrain?

Is there any computer that can utilize power from a variety of sources- electricity, solar, and lead-acid batteries?

Is there a computer that can withstand the harsh environment of heat, dust and the rough terrain in many parts of Africa?

The answer is a resounding “Yes”- it is the Solo Transportable Computer, developed by Fantsuam Foundation*, a Nigeria-based NGO.

According to the Foundation:
“Solo is a transportable rather than a portable computer. The entire device can be solid state, having no disc drives or moving parts. The base operating system is in ROM, applications in Flash RAM and the usual RAM for workspace. For certain software requiring ongoing disc-access, a 1-inch microdrive replaces the internal Compact Flash.
It uses a TFT Liquid Crystal Display, which may optionally be touch sensitive, removing the need for a separate keyboard and mouse. It may be supplied in a variety of configurations and screen sizes depending on the location of the manufacturer and their intended market.

The Solo is designed to be assembled and supported by manufacturing companies based within Third World countries thereby offering employment within a high-technology industry without moving to an advanced westernised city.”
The computer is not designed for use as a personal computer, according to John Dada, the founder of Fantsuam Foundation: "We're not looking to litter every home with a computer, no. We're looking to have communities having a few computers which members of the community can have access to. That way they can then be in touch with the rest of the country the rest of the world."

There is one major problem though, does all these attributes justify the $1,200 price tag on the machine, one may ask? Even despite Dada’s rationale on the cost, the computer may unfortunately prove to be a difficult sell after all.

More on Fantsuam Foundation
*“ Fantsuam Foundation is a registered charity that works with established women’s groups in rural communities in Nigeria to facilitate their access to micro credit and information communication technology (ICT) services for health and education. Fantsuam Foundation has been a pioneer in promoting access to ICT facilities in rural communities that have no telephones or electricity, and has placed special emphasis on women and youth. One of Fantsuam Foundation's rural ICT projects was awarded the first Hafkin Africa Prize in 2001.”

The Fantsuam Foundation Solo Computer project in Nigeria has been incorporated into a documentary filmed by Television for the Environment TVE See transcript