Thursday, 7 February 2008

The OLPC XO is a toughened, stripped-down laptop weighing 1.3kg that uses a 433Mhz AMD chip, 2GB flash drive and mesh Wi-Fi to create a local area network. The Linux-based OLPC, which is about to be tested by Microsoft for use with XP, can connect to the internet and has three USB ports.
Intel's Classmate is built with a 900Mhz Celeron M chip which can run Windows XP or Linux, uses Wi-Fi and has a 2GB Flash drive for the Windows variant and a 1GB Flash drive for the Linux version. The 1.4kg Classmate comes with two USB ports and costs between £115 and £150.
The Asus Eee PC range is less rugged. There are four 7in models weighing 920g and sporting an Intel Celeron processor. Their Flash drives range from 2GB to 8GB, with between 512MB and 1GB of Ram. They have three high-speed USB 2.0 ports and Wi-Fi. All run Linux and can run Windows XP, and cost around £200.
Acer, Gigabyte, Lenovo and Everex have all announced low-cost laptops that can compete in this area.
"You can imagine a whole swathe of internet boiler-rooms being created among people who can make more money from internet crime than herding goats," says Sunner, who points to the fact that Africa already has the highly technologically literate Nigerian 419 group, one of the oldest cyber-crime organisations.
The latter are very dangerous, says a former head of the UK's now disbanded West African Organised Crime Unit. "They are organised like a business. They are already building most of the bogus bank sites on the web. If you ship computers to Nigeria then a lot of them will inevitably make their way to 419. I mentioned this to someone who is still monitoring 419 and they said 'you might as well shut down the internet and go back to pen and ink'."
Sunner, meanwhile, notes the dangers that the machines represent to Africa's own emerging internet infrastructure. "There are a lot of viruses are already heading for Africa and China and the consequences of spam can be terrible if you do not have much bandwidth," he says.
Both Intel and OLPC point out that the laptops will often only have intermittent connectivity. That might lower the risk of getting infected - or the chances of getting security upgrades.
But the bleak picture may be avoidable, says Rolf Roessing, a security expert for KPMG. "If we are to bring IT to Africa then it will not work unless we bring security with it. Computer security in the west grew because of a loss of innocence and there are still weaknesses in the developed world because of a lack of awareness. If you bring IT to developing countries then you have to develop awareness, too."



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...