Re: Can ultracheap PCs be used for voting systems

From: Richard C. Johnson <dick_at_iwwco_dot_com>
Date: Thu May 04 2006 - 12:39:13 CDT

The inexpensive PCs running Linux are ideal to support ballot generating software for the visually impaired and illiterate voters of the world, who have difficulty with standard paper ballots. However, it is necessary to have a headset (earphone/mic) socket on the inexpensive machine for this purpose. Is that the case?
  If so, I believe we have Open Source software now that would support voting by those who cannot see or read paper ballots.
  Otherwise, I think that scanner systems offer much more inexpensive voting than DRE style machines. We are working on Open Source solutions to generate ballots and to interface scanner output with Open Source tabulation programs running on Linux.
  We look forward to the increasing availability of these inexpensive machines. Our Open Source thin client solution will certainly run well on the low end $100 machine and it is quite feasible to think of serving urban areas with WiFi (on which VPNs are quite feasible) and voting stations consisting of these inexpensive machines, cheap printers, and a WiFi connection to remote servers.
  It is quite difficult to think of just why more expensive PCs running Windows would be needed in poor countries. Also, I would think that the MIT plans could be executed in the home PC industrial plants of almost any poor country for domestic consumption.
  Thanks for the article!
  -- Dick
  Richard C. Johnson, Ph.D.
  Open Voting Solutions, Inc.

Arthur Keller <> wrote:
Posted on Tue, May. 02, 2006

Tech rivals target the world's poor
By Dean Takahashi
Mercury News
Two of Silicon Valley's biggest technology rivals will promote initiatives this week to grow their global business by providing low-cost computers to developing countries.
Intel is announcing it will spend $1 billion to speed up the marketing of inexpensive computers to such emerging markets as such as India, China and Mexico. Its rival, Advanced Micro Devices, is already making bare-bones computers that cost $250 or less.
While tech companies agree about the importance of bringing technology to the world's poor, they differ about the best way to do it. But they are joining top executives from Microsoft and Dell this week at a conference in Austin, Texas, to discuss campaigns to extend computer access to the world's low-income regions.
``Decades of providing technology in growing volume and at decreasing costs have driven great gains for developing nations, communities and people worldwide, but there is still much to do,'' said Intel CEO Paul Otellini in a statement about the company's ``World Ahead'' program.
Many tech companies have marketed conventional PCs that failed in the emerging markets. With that in mind, Intel plans a broader approach: customizing PCs for specific world regions, making high-speed wireless Internet connections available to everyone, and educating teachers on how to teach with computers. Intel also has a new design for a classroom computer, costing about $450, that will make its debut next year.
Bill Calder, a spokesman for Santa Clara-based Intel, said, ``This is not just a charitable thing. It makes good business sense.''
But philanthropic aims can also pose risks for business strategies.
``The tough problem is that a lot of the companies want to hit the low prices for the emerging markets, but they don't want to cannibalize sales of the high-priced machines for developed countries,'' said Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group in San Jose. ``The truth is, there are two markets in each country. There are the affluent people who will buy the full-fledged computer, and those in rural areas who need the cheapest possible machine.''
The debate over how to best reach developing countries also plays out in the efforts of Silicon Valley chip makers Intel and AMD. Intel backs the view that the poor should have access to fully functional computers that might cost slightly more but give them rich experiences on par with everyone else. That aim aligns with the business aims of companies promoting both Windows software and Intel's microprocessors.
AMD, by contrast, has focused on even cheaper computers and launched an effort it calls 50x15 to get 50 percent of the world's population using computers by the year 2015. AMD has already introduced computers priced at less than $300 -- or subsidized through monthly subscription fees -- and run only a subset of Windows software.
AMD chips
AMD is also putting its chips into the $100 laptops being developed for the world's low-income children by a non-profit organization started by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has criticized the $100 laptops for depriving the poor of some important computer functions. The laptops run the low-cost, open-source Linux operating system, which offers some competition for Microsoft's Windows.
But Negroponte has said a $100 laptop could do much the same things as a $1,000 laptop, except store masses of data.
The $100 machine has a 366-megahertz AMD microprocessor with 128 megabytes of main memory. For permanent storage, it has 500 megabytes of flash memory chips instead of a hard disk drive. It can connect to the Internet through wireless broadband radios and tap alternative power sources such as hand-cranked generators.
  Negroponte's group has raised $24 million and expects governments to issue them to children in schools starting at the end of this year or the beginning of 2007. Sponsors include such luminaries as computer pioneer Alan Kay as well as companies such as Google and AMD.
To make its cheapest computers possible, AMD uses the low-cost Geode GX microprocessor, a business it bought from National Semiconductor.
The so-called Personal Internet Communicators, which cost $250 with a monitor, are selling via telephone and cable TV operators in countries such as China, Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean and Turkey.
Billy Edwards, chief innovation officer at AMD, says the company has learned lessons. The PIC failed in the United States, where Radio Shack tried selling it last fall, in part because it was hard to communicate to consumers just what it was appropriate for.
But with 18 months of sales behind it, AMD continues with its efforts, Edwards says. On its Web site, AMD keeps a running count of the percentage of the world's 6.5 billion people who have access to the Internet. It now stands at 15.75 percent, or just over 1 billion people.
There have been a few other retreats. Hewlett-Packard wound down an e-inclusion effort in emerging markets last year, while PMC-Sierra shelved a plan to sell chips for non-Windows computers in China.
Intel's efforts
But Intel has pushed ahead and established research centers in four countries to design computers that meet their needs. It launched a low-cost PC last month in conjunction with Telefonos de Mexico. It unveiled a cheap ``community PC'' in India and is working on similar projects with the governments of Egypt, Brazil, Ghana and Nigeria.
In the next two years, Intel plans to launch six more computers for regional markets around the world.
``The thesis here is you can do good things and do good business,'' AMD's Edwards said.

  Contact Dean Takahashi at or (408) 920-5739.
2006 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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