HP Innovates in the Third World

Hewlett-Packard delivers a creative technology solution to poor villages in India. Very impressive!

Neelamma, a 26-year-old woman, has found opportunity as a new type of entrepreneur. She’s one of a dozen itinerant photographers who walk the streets of their farming communities carrying small backpacks stuffed with a digital camera, printer, and solar battery charger. As part of an experiment organized by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ ), Neelamma and the others are able to double their family incomes by charging the equivalent of 70 cents apiece for photos of newborns, weddings, and other proud moments of village life.

To make this happen, HP had to throw out its notions of how the tech business works. Anand Tawker, the company’s director of emerging-market solutions in India, and his colleagues wrestled with fundamental questions: Does computing technology have a place in villages where electricity is fitful? Could it improve people’s lives? How could villagers living in poverty pay for the latest digital wonders? And they came up with answers. In place of standard electricity, HP designers created the portable solar charger. Instead of selling the gear outright, HP rents the equipment to the photographers for $9 a month. “We asked people what they needed. One thing kept coming up: ‘We want more money in our pockets,”‘ says Tawker. “So we do experiments. We launch and learn.”

Link BW Online | September 27, 2004 | Tech’s Future