A lot has been said about computing in the future. Some have advocated for a mobile world with all or most of our data in the cloud whilst others insists the PC is here to stay. They all agree on one thing however, we will be computing in the future and computing and the internet will be an indispensable part of the hereafter.
One of the major reasons Zimbabwe continues to drop behind in the computing arena is the cost of computing devices. A good smartphone or tablet will set you behind US $300 easy and so will a netbook. Meanwhile a laptop or desktop can put a $500 hole in your budget and even then, the specifications will not blow you away. On the other hand a Raspberry Pi computer complete with a starter kit, USB charger, case, SD card (4GB), mouse, keyboard and HDMI cable can be obtained for under $100 or at most $120.
The price difference is enormous even after allowing for the Zimbabwean 100% markup that is customarily slapped on tech and other products. It is a wonder therefore that no one, to my knowledge, has them on sale in Zimbabwe. They would make a killing!
The one laptop per child whilst noble has failed to break into the $100/unit threshold mainly because of the cost of LCDs and other components. The Raspberry Pi solved part of the problem by having a TV connector that allows one to use a TV as a monitor. Almost everyone has a TV lying around in their house which can potentially be turned into a computer and again I have to wonder that this is not already happening.
It is estimated that 16% of the Zimbabwean population ( that is about 2 million people) use the internet. That leaves 84% out in the cold. Given our teledensity of 100% and mobile penetration of 97% and the fact that every SIM card can be used to access internet; the obvious impediment to the 84% not joining the global village is lack of access to a computing device-an affordable computing device that is. Most budget cellphones below the $100 mark, like the Nokia X2, although affordable,are often unsuited for some computing tasks like Word processing or printing. Using a Raspberry Pi it is possible to plug in a USB dongle to allow a Raspberry pi to access 3G at a reasonable cost whilst allowing access to a full featured computer.
Despite efforts and attempts at electrification in rural areas where the majority of the population lives, some areas remain in the dark and others are frequently hit by blackouts. Batteries and Solar power are often used as an alternative in these places. Due to its low power consumption the Raspberry Pi can be use with a battery and solar power without any modifications to the existing solar system. It is even possible to use ordinary dry cells.
Using existing technology such as our Television, Solar power, 3G networks and dongles at a reasonable price it seems the Raspberry pi was made with Zimbabwe on mind. I am surprised by the little attention it has gained on the local market. It was supposed to be a pie that we needed.