In an effort to spread information technology literacy and make the Internet more accessible to the masses, Hong Kong based Asiatotal.net has launched iT, a stripped-down version of a personal computer which will be distributed free of cost to lower income individuals and small businesses.
iT is a compact, portable desk top computer equipped with Windows CE (operating system for hand-held devices) complete with everything necessary to connect to the Internet, and has home entertainment devices, a printer, a USB card reader for reading memory cards of digital cameras and many other USB peripherals.
The iT hardware package includes a keyboard, a mouse, a 7-inch LCD monitor with speaker, a smart card reader, a mouse pad and all necessary cables. Coming to the free part, the computer will be given absolutely free to eligible individuals and businesses at rural places where there is a possibility of Internet connectivity.
But how will this firm make money? This device has a conventional keyboard with 14 additional keys, 10 of which will be sponsored by firms that want to tap rural markets, like a firm selling seeds or crop insurance. By pressing the relevant "hot key", farmers can directly access firms' websites where product information will guide them to making the right purchase.
Asiatotal.net will charge sponsorship fees and have revenue-sharing agreements with the sponsors. Four keys will be generic ones as they will provide access to information on health issues, farming, and other related content, which will be tailored for area-specific distribution. But is this a feasible model?
Asiatotal.net has declined to specify the cost of manufacturing of this device, saying that it is not relevant as it will be distributed free of cost.
The company feels this concept will offer sponsors huge revenue potential and prompt them to initially pay up.
"Sponsors benefit from a huge new market, not to mention the fact that the sole ownership of a hot key will ensure a level of brand loyalty that you can only dream of. Social responsibility and the impact of being involved with the project also cannot be underestimated," says Judy S Chen, president & CEO, Asiatotal.net.
The firm says it intends to distribute 3 million iTs across developing countries like India, China, Brazil, Mexico, and those in eastern Europe. It will be shortly rolling out these devices in Brazil."It is estimated that only 10 per cent of world's population are connected to the Internet and 70 per cent of the world's Internet users live in the 24 richest counIttries which account for 16 per cent of the world's population. iT is the result of a vision to close this great digital divide by providing the means for the less privileged to access the Internet," Chen says.