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Intel targets rural India for digital inclusion

Posted: 31 May 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel Corp.  low-cost computers  digital divide 

Intel Corp. has set its sights on the teeming population in semi-urban and rural India for pushing its low-cost computers with wireless connectivity to bridge the digital divide in the sub-continent.

As part of its Rs.4,475 crore ($1 billion) World Ahead Program (WAP), launched globally from Austin, Texas, early this month, Intel has roped in Indian vendors for hard-selling affordable PCs and providing greater connectivity.

"We have tied up with HCL, Millennium, PCS, Wipro and Zenith Computers to make low-cost, fully featured, high quality, small form factor desktop PCs, with an easy-to-use interface available to end-users in the countryside where PC penetration is still very low," said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini during his two-day visit to Bangalore this week.

The Intel-based PCs, designed and developed at its India development centre, will be rolled out in the next two months, and priced 20 per cent less than its lowest priced computers being sold in metros and tier two cities.

"With only two per cent of India's population having a PC or Internet connection, the potential for increasing the PC penetration is immense and challenging. By multiplying the effects of computers, Internet and education, we intend to accelerate the reach of technology benefits in the country over the next five years," Otellini told reporters.

In India, Intel will target about 850 million people with income below Rs.1,34,250 ($3,000) per annum for digital inclusion. The Intel-powered community PC has been developed specifically to meet the Internet access requirements of rural villages and communities.

Intel's ethnographic studies in rural India had shown that a single PC can serve many people in remote rural communities, where harsh weather conditions and unreliable power sources affect desktop computers.

"Currently, the PC penetration is limited to about 10 per cent of the 250 million people with an annual income of Rs. 134,250-671,250 ($3,000-15,000). PC penetration, however, is said to be about 50 per cent in the top five million creamy population, with an annual income of Rs. 22.38 crore ($5 million) and above," Otellini pointed out.

As Intel's fastest growing development site outside the United States, Otellini added, its India facility will play a key role in designing and developing computing technologies for the WAP.

With about 2,700 techies working at its software development centre and R&D facility in Bangalore, Intel plans to transform its India operations into a design hub to drive innovation at a global level. The company will be investing Rs.4,475 crore ($1 billion) in India over the next five years to grow its research and development, venture capital activities and education and community programmes. This will be in addition to the cumulative investment of Rs.3,356.25 crore ($750 million) it made during the last decade.

For greater PC penetration across the segments, Intel will facilitate loans from ICICI Bank through subscription payment model, ensuring long-term viability for computer financing methods. "We will also work with Tata VSNL to roll out Intel-based PC solutions and WiMAX wireless broadband connectivity to Tata RailTel cyber cafes across the country. This will help extend computing accessibility and Internet connectivity to about 13 million people, who frequent railway stations every day," Otellini said.

For the growing student community, Intel plans to introduce next year portable and affordable learning devices based on Intel's platform, code named Eduwise.

- Gulab Chand
   EE Times India

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