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What Are the Industry’s Top ICT Hardware Challenges?

By Danielle Schulkin on August 11, 2014

You are in a minority. Yes, you.

I single you out because, as you read this article online (perhaps on a phone or a tablet or even a MacBook Pro), you are part of the 40% of the world’s total population that has access to the Internet.

Unfortunately most Internet communication technologies are made for people who are already plugged in with their Android, Mac, and Tablet. This hardware is designed for communities with advanced electrical and connectivity infrastructures and aimed at end-users who are well versed on Internet communication technology. But when the same hardware is implemented in developing world locations where such infrastructure is limited, it often fails.

So what accounts for this recurring failure?

In the following white paper, “Emerging Markets: Top ICT Hardware Challenges”, Dr. Laura Hosman presents the top five ICT hardware challenges in emerging markets. These rankings are based on a series of technology salons, in-depth interviews, and macro-level online surveys of experts, practitioners, academics, and end-users of ICT4D. The paper exposes the challenges and needs of developing communities for their ICT hardware. By addressing these needs with new designs, ICT designers and manufacturers will be better able to reach the 60% of the world’s population who remain unconnected.

A short overview of the top five challenges from the paper:

  1. Electricity/Power/Energy: Extremely low power and long battery life; robust handling of electrical spikes, swings, dips, blackouts, and brownouts; and—ideally—at 12-volts DC to be solar-power ready
  2. Cost: Balance must be found between the lowest cost and solid, reliable, functional technology
  3. Environment-Related Issues: Reliability/ruggedness/durability are all of paramount importance (resistance to water, humidity, dust, dirt, and extreme heat); no moving parts recommended; screens are hard to repair and difficult to read in direct sunlight
  4. Connectivity: Essential to the usefulness of just about any device in any location; is what creates value for entire ICT4D ecosystem: the more connected, the more valuable the network. Main method advocated was WiFi
  5. Maintenance & Support: The best technology needs no support. Transportation for repair, maintenance, and support is expensive. Sourcing spare parts is a challenge. Technology that cannot be locally maintained, supported, and repaired is not sustainable.

The focus on those who are already connected ignores scores of people who are just beginning to go online. By optimizing hardware for developing world locations, ICT designers can expand their reach to new markets while at the same time increase quality of life for millions of people around the world.

The paper was published by Inveneo, written by Dr. Laura Hosman, and directed by Inveneo director Bruce Baikie. The following infographic was created by Eric Zan. Check out his website at http://www.ericzan.info

Hardware Challenges Infograph

Filed Under: Connectivity, Hardware, Power, Reports, Solutions, Technology
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Danielle Schulkin is a recent graduate of Harvard University (’14) where she studied the History of Science and Government. At school, she worked for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, where she fostered an interest in the ways new technologies can be harnessed for the public good. She is currently holds an internship at Inveneo where she hopes to expand her understanding of the intersection between innovation, law, and society. You can follow her on Twitter.
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2 Comments to “What Are the Industry’s Top ICT Hardware Challenges?”

  1. Nairobi says:

    I think the single biggest challenge is definitely power/energy. The reason ICT can’t grow is because people cant use any electronic equipment, leave alone a computer even other simple electronic gadgets

  2. I would suggest depicting emerging market ICT using a mobile phone, rather than a laptop, since mobile phones are by far the most common computing device. It can be hard to move beyond our preconceptions of what computing is, which preconceptions are conditioned on our rich-country resources — but it is essential if we are to maximize our own use of the new ICT in poorer countries.