by Jamie Beckett
HP put a spotlight on its work creating technologies for emerging
economies at a recent United Nations meeting aimed at bringing
the Internet and telecommunications innovations to the world's
During the Information and Telecommunications for Development (ICT4D)
meeting, researchers from HP's two-year-old laboratory in India demonstrated
a host of technologies aimed at expanding access
to information and communication
while HP executives outlined the company's commitment to creating
information technology opportunities in and for developing
nations. ICT4D was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in connection with the United Nations World
Summit for the Information Society (WSIS).
The summit was the first of its kind to bring together Heads
of State from around the world, directors of United Nations
agencies, industry leaders, private organizations and media
to attack the problem of closing the gap between technology's "haves" and "have
nots." Some 5,000 representatives from 60 nations attended.
"The opportunity to radically accelerate the use of and investment
in information technology in the developing world is vast enough for
all of us to benefit," Per-Kristian Halvorsen, HP vice president
and director of the Solutions and Services Research center in HP Labs,
said during a BBC-televised panel discussion. "The challenges create
a new culture of research that values innovation focused
on the combination of technology, local needs and sustainable
HP Labs India already has made progress in this area. The
Bangalore-based laboratory is focused on dismantling the
major barriers - language, communication and cost - that prevent access
to information technology
in developing countries.
Researchers from HP Labs India demonstrated some of their
work to event participants, including such notables as UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan and other key UN leaders, representatives
from the World Bank
and dignitaries from several nations. Projects highlighted
- A handwritten e-mail device: prototype of a low-cost, e-mail
device that allows users to write e-mails without requiring
them to be computer-literate or rely on an English-language
keyboard. It can capture
handwritten notes and convert them to e-mail messages.
- Voice-based services: investigating voice-based services in local
languages to enable access to information and transaction
over the phones, which are more
available than PCs and Internet connections in developing countries.
- Handwritten data input: attacking the problem of unfamiliarity
and awkwardness of the keyboard for data-entry, a significant
barrier to wider adoption of PCs
in many developing countries. HP Labs is developing handwriting-based interfaces
that offer online recognition of handwritten Indian scripts.
- Adult literacy testing: creating man-machine interfaces
for the barely literate and developing a literacy-testing
application to enhance the learning experience
and calibrate the results of literacy-improvement programs.
Other HP participation at
the summit, held late last year in Geneva, Switzerland,
- Srinivasan Ramani, director of HP
Labs India, spoke about
innovating for emerging economies.
- Francois Bornibus, general
manager of HP
Eastern Europe, Middle East and
Africa and vice
president of the Enterprise System
projects in central
and eastern Europe.
president and director of HP Philanthropy
and Education)described some of the
successes and challenges of global citizenship in a collaborative