The average person in the Western world takes the Internet for granted, yet fewer than 20 percent of the 6 billion people living on this planet have access to it. Web-enabling 50 percent of the world’s population by 2015 may sound ambitious, but that’s AMD’s goal for its 50×15 initiative, which will stress the use of alternative sources of sustainable, affordable power.
Working with corporations and foundations, AMD has deployed 20 Learning Labs (Net access centers for students and residents) in China, South America, India and many African nations, including Burkina Faso and Uganda, says Dan Shine, director of the initiative.
Many of the labs feature hardware from nonprofit Inveneo. The $469 Linux-based Inveneo computing station is designed with low-income, rural areas in mind, says Kristin Peterson, cofounder of Inveneo. “The key challenges are lack of power and dependable electricity, and dusty, hot and humid conditions,” she says. Based on the AMD Geode Processor, the PC
consumes only about 20 watts of power and lacks a fan, to make it much more tolerant of dust and humidity.
Where power is limited, energy-efficient systems and alternate power sources are necessities. Bob Marsh, VP of engineering at Inveneo, says that because of climate change and other factors, Lake Victoria, the water source that provides Northern Uganda with hydroelectric power, continues to shrink. “Just in the last two years, it’s gotten dramatically worse; the power sometimes fails two or three days at a time.”
The Uganda Learning Lab utilizes a backup battery solution for alternative power; designed by Marsh, it’s similar to slow-drain marine batteries. Solar panels provide supplemental energy at the lab in Burkina Faso, says Shine, adding that such alternatives are necessary for AMD to fulfill the goals of 50×15. “In order to get 50 percent of the world connected by 2015, it will be absolutely essential to get off the grid.”