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Cheap computing still isn’t cheap enough, says Eric Brewer, founder of Web-search company Inktomi. Brewer heads the University of California, Berkeley-based Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions project.

Is Moore’s Law letting us down?
Even a hundred-dollar computer is too much for billions of people. The bigger problem is that we design technologies for the First World, then hand them down and hope they’re useful. A lot of times they’re not.

What’s your focus?
Reliable shared infrastructure and low-cost, point-to-point wireless connections. We’ve already got 10-kilometer broadband links, using $800 worth of modified Wi-Fi gear. Simulations say we can get to 80 kilometers.

Who runs it?
It has to be local stakeholders on the ground. They can be volunteers or entrepreneurs.

Why not just invent another great search engine?
When you have a billion dollars – even just on paper – you start to think, What do I do with this stuff? I don’t have all the money anymore, but I still have the interest in getting the benefits of IT to everyone.

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25 Years ago in Technology Review

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