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Free internet can fix education issues in developing countries [T4A]

network cables connected to switch

There are many issues facing the emerging markets and most will argue that technology and access to the internet can help solve those problems.

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“There is an internet revolution underway in parts of the world and some can not see it,” says Derek Kopke, the Executive Vice President, International Business Development for DataWind, at this year’s Tech4Africa conference.

If you haven’t heard of DataWind, you need to get out from under your rock. The company is responsible for the hugely popular Aakash tablets in India.

The way Kopke sees it, education is one of the biggest problems facing the developing world and a free internet and affordable devices that help deliver that is the way to solve it. An idea it seems the Indian government is onboard with, having given over five percent of its education budget to tablets.

For Kopke, the reason this the answer is quite easy. He argues that “the world has changed with regards to PC accessibility and how delivering the internet to the billions of unserved in the developing world has already begun.”

Citing the fact that education “plays a part in driving the internet to the masses” and that “this can be delivered in the short-term for an affordable price”.

He posses a few questions around the next steps to getting a free net: how do we get the next 3-billion people onto the internet? How important is affordability? How can we build a web-enabled PC for under US$50? How can we deliver the web on existing legacy networks in developing countries? What will drive people to the internet? How good is good enough?

For DataWind the answers are in leveraging existing technology such as a free operating system, which helps in the democratisation of CPU.

The company decided to make touch screens and revamp the way LCD production is done by doing it at a lower price but still delivering great quality. DataWind, he says, decided to implement disruptive business model by separating the user from payer.

“We decided to shift the burden of margins from hardware to recurring revenue streams. We make a portion of our money from hardware, some from advertising, content and subscriptions, network services and warranties,” he says.

Making the internet free seems to be a key component of DataWind’s net revolutions and getting the next three billion people online.

“We though to make the internet free by compressing sites through a server. So we can deliver data to our costumers with three times less data than other devices do,” says Kopke.

Using the “good enough” disruptions model, Kopke says that a good understanding of high-end markets and low-end markets ensures that DataWind can build good enough products for low-end markets.

This he reckons can have high impact on education in the developing world, a key disruptor in the African market.

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