What Are Dell, Micromax Informatics, and Others Doing in ICT4D?

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While the rapid development of information and other technologies has brought the world closer together, it has also contributed to highlighting some of the glaring differences between first and third world countries over the last two decades.
As smartphones accelerated innovation through the ever-expanding mobile app market, third world countries were still catching up to get access to the Internet altogether.
Entrepreneurs and established companies all around the world, however, have taken note and started developing programs and new technologies especially designed for the infrastructure of poor countries in order to get them up to speed and empower a new generation of young entrepreneurs to contribute to the world’s progress.
Let’s take a look at some initiatives that have recently been launched to expand technological options in third world countries.
Youth Learning
“Young people are natural adopters of new technologies and certainly the potential for technology and digital media to be a force for innovation, education and change is just beginning to be realized,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, told The Guardian.
The same mentality inspired Dell to start their “Youth Learning” program, which targets the 72 million children worldwide that currently are not in school and lack access to the facilities, teachers, and the technology needed for a better education.
As part of the program, Dell partners with non-profit organizations around the globe to implement Dell technology, provide grant funding, and make local Dell experts available to help close the learning gap in third world countries.
What’s unique about Dell’s approach is that it not only provides technology to improve educational opportunities, but the company believes in a holistic approach, which includes addressing basic community needs like food, water, and security.
Early results of Dell’s “Youth Learning” program paint a hopeful picture. In their partnership with India’s Learning Links Foundation, for example, the company reached over 54,000 students by bringing its SCIMA Digital Literacy Enhancement & Explore @myworld program to nine schools in five cities. According to Dell, the program enables students to communicate, collaborate and exchange knowledge at any time, from anywhere.
Affordable Smartphones
While there have been different versions of cheap mobile phones offered in third world countries, Apple’s former CEO, John Sculley, decided that everyone should have access to the same highly-advanced features that consumers in the Western world are enjoying.
After many years of traveling through Asia, Africa, and India, and witnessing first-hand how a growing middle class is driving economic expansion, Sculley invested his time into designing a smartphone that was packed with features as one might expect to see in wealthy countries – but one that would be affordable to middle class citizens in poorer countries. In the end, Obi Worldphone was born.
“The end result is what I believe to be the best Android phone under $200, and probably one of the best-designed Android phones at any price,” Time contributor, Tim Bajarin, concluded. You can check out the two models currently offered by Obi Worldphone right here.
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Consumer Electronics
Similar to Sculley’s approach, Micromax Informatics decided about a decade ago that it was time to offer affordable counterparts to a wide range of consumer electronics – not just mobile phones – and initially focused on the struggling lower class of India.
What first started out as an IT software company in 2000 is now the tenth largest smartphone vendor in the world and second largest smartphone company in India. “Micromax is a brand which is close to the heart of the youth and celebrates the vibrancies of life and empowerment,” the company says about its core mission, adding that, “With sales presence across India and global presence in Russia and SAARC markets, the Indian brand is reaching out to the global frontier with innovative products that challenge the status quo that Innovation comes with a price.”
Marketing
A company called “TTC Mobile” realized that it is not only important to offer new technology, but also establish a highly intelligent and wide-reaching data and research infrastructure in third world countries, where a lot of mainstream advertising agencies do not have much access to consumer data.
The company’s philosophy is simple – without knowing who actually needs technological innovation, what are we creating all those new gadgets, software, and satellites for? So TTC Mobile went on to establish a far-reaching network of consumers that would give marketers access to and profound insight about millions of people and their needs in emerging markets.
According to the company’s website, “Our extensive expertise comes from 7 years of reaching millions of people across Africa, South America and Asia. Our solutions make sure people receive important information for free, provide opportunity for people to voice their opinion by asking questions, and collecting valuable data. These mobile phone-based platforms are scalable, cost-effective, easy-to-use and guarantee the measurability of results.”
These innovative programs and devices seem exciting, and continued research will help determine how much impact they make for global communities in need.
Nick Rojas is a journalist based in Los Angeles, CA. and Chicago, IL. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas.