Power. That’s the real problem for information and communication technologies (ICT) in the developing world. Specifically, electrical power, and the lack there of. All the coolest ICT tools, from radio to computers, the very Internet itself, require electricity, and usually vast amounts of it.
Yet in the developing world, electricity is very rare and expensive. National electrical grids don’t extend past the national capitol or major trading city. Outside of population centers, electricity is generated by local, even personal generators.
Often noisy, polluting, diesel or petrol generators that need constant repair, or very expensive and delicate solar panels that break or disappear overnight. Either way, electrical infrastructure costs usually exceeded the ICT investment, often by 2-3 times.
These two opposing forces collided during the 2000’s, as the international development industry, local governments, and communities themselves tried to bring ICT to rural and underserved areas, with disastrous results. Untold millions of dollars, man-hours, and even computers were lost in these ICT for development (ICT4D) projects when energy sucking computers starved themselves and their hosts, as they gorged on rare, expensive electrons.
We would still be wasting silicon and staff today, if it were not for one, very small invention that has literally revolutionized an industry: the Intel Atom processor.