VIA Expands Cooperation with Geekcorps to Empower Remote Mali Communities

Unique, sustainable technology deployments, “Cybertigi” and desert community radio stations highlight VIA pc-1 benefits in harsh environments

Taipei, Taiwan, 27 February 2007 – VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator and developer of silicon chip technologies and PC platform solutions, today announced its continued cooperation with international IT development group, Geekcorps, to empower thousands of people through the deployment of specialized, sustainable information and communication technology (ICT) in Mali, including “Cybertigi” mobile cyber service vendors and desert community radio stations.

Mali, the 4th poorest country in the world with an average annual income of just US$1,200, is home to nearly 12 million people, most in rural communities with 64% below the poverty line and 60% illiterate. Much of the country is desert, so temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius and dust pollution are common. The extreme poverty, scarcity of natural resources and poor communication between villages makes the region susceptible to conflict, so Geekcorps, in partnership with USAID, is approaching these problems with innovative technology solutions.

“Geekcorps’ philosophy is that ICT provides the most effective way to educate and inform the greatest number of people with the least amount of resources,” said Wayan Vota, Director of Geekcorps, the technology division of the International Executive Service Corps. “But projects need to be economically and socially sustainable to ensure their continuation, so we need technology that is adaptable, scalable and cost effective.”

“Digital independence and empowerment on this scale and in these environments align perfectly with our VIA pc-1 vision,” said Richard Brown, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. “Given the immense environmental and infrastructural challenges in Mali, the incredibly low power draw of VIA pc-1 technologies frees implementers like Geekcorps from traditional energy source restrictions, opening up whole new deployment possibilities in these regions.”

The Cybertigi: Bringing Cyber Services to the People

“Cybertigi” is a mobile computing kiosk program aimed at empowering local entrepreneurs to create their own micro-businesses selling cyber services such as email, voicemail, printing, photography and web-based information. A “tigi” is a local tradesman in Bambara, the local language; thus the Cybertigi offers services during market days in local towns and villages. While the first Cybertigis are using fixed locations, the goal is for mobility, with all equipment in a cart to enable travel between markets, enabling the vendor to expand the customer base and for far more to benefit from these services.

Cybertigi mobile kiosks comprise a low power, ruggedized VIA pc-1 PHD (Power, Heat and Dust) appliance linked to a Nokia 770 mobile phone, plus an LCD monitor, printer, scanner and digital camera, all of which run off car batteries – essential in low- or no-power areas. Voicemail is proving very popular for the largely illiterate population, as is photography and e-governance services such as land registration. Services are usually asynchronous, with package up- and downloads batch-processed when the vendor can access an Internet connection, and with reply mail and information delivered on the following market day.

“Although amongst the poorest in the world, Malians are willing to pay for cyber services because photos and official papers obtainable through the Cybertigi can often be the only documentary evidence of their existence,” continued Wayan Vota. “With the Cybertigi program, we are aiming to develop an economically sustainable micro-business model, while at the same time demonstrating the clear benefits of ICT even in these areas.”

More information about the Cybertigi can be found on Geekcorps’ website at: http://lmi.geekcorps.org/

The Desert Community Radio Station

Bourem Inaly near Timbuktu is very far from electricity supply and faces encroaching desertification, yet a rugged VIA pc-1 system has been successfully deployed as a community radio station, enabling villagers to create, store and share news and information, opening up communications channels with local villages and far beyond. Daily informative broadcasts ensure farming techniques, healthcare updates, civic information, children’s education are conveyed to the villagers, as well as local and world news.

Powered only by solar panels and a car battery, the “Desert PC” based on the ultra power efficient VIA processor platforms represents a practical approach to bringing computers to hostile environments. As well as tapping the sun’s plentiful energy, Geekcorps also encourages local innovators to devise cheap and easily reproduced alternatives to expensive imported technology, such as the creation of a Wifi antenna out of a plastic bottle, wire mesh and a car aerial, and recruit villagers to operate the stations.

“ICT is undoubtedly the most efficient way to reach out to the rural communities, where a single 1-hour broadcast on a key topic can reach 84% of the population in 24 hours, compared to the weeks or months it would take a team of experts to travel around the country,”noted Geekcorps’ Wayan Vota. “Better still, the radio stations are a sustainable business model, able to raise local advertising revenue to fund full-time radio operators.”

“What Geekcorps is achieving in Mali is a showcase in bringing ICT to the poorest and most remote communities in the world, and completely invalidates arguments about the irrelevance of technology to low-income people,” said Richard Brown, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. “With their remarkable ingenuity and pioneering spirit, we are excited to be working with Geekcorps, and look forward to assisting them in further enabling empowerment in under-developed nations.”

More details on the achievements of Geekcorps in Mali may be found on their website at: http://mali.geekcorps.org/, while the VIA pc-1 community portal covers the project at:
http://www.via.com.tw/en/initiatives/empowered/mali.jsp.

About the VIA pc-1 Initiative

The VIA pc-1 Initiative is aimed at enabling the next one billion people to get connected. With a focus on communication, education and information, the VIA pc-1 Initiative seeks to empower millions of people to improve their quality of life through technology, especially in emerging markets. Comprising a range of flexible systems based on VIA’s acclaimed energy-efficient processor platforms, the VIA pc-1 Initiative is a realistic approach to bringing technology to millions more people within a sustainable business framework. Of the numerous initiatives VIA has launched to enhance the technology experience and the quality of life, the VIA pc-1 Initiative has a universal remit to make a difference to the lives of many more millions of people. www.viatech.com/pc-1

About Geekcorps

IESC Geekcorps is an international 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes stability and prosperity in the developing world through information and communication technology (ICT). Geekcorps’ international technology experts teach communities how to be digitally independent: able to create and expand private enterprise with innovative, appropriate, and affordable information and communication technologies. www.geekcorps.org

About VIA Technologies, Inc.

VIA Technologies, Inc. (TSE 2388) is the foremost fabless supplier of market-leading core logic chipsets, low power x86 processors, advanced connectivity, multimedia and networking silicon, and complete platform solutions that are driving system innovation in the PC and embedded markets. Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, VIA’s global network links the high tech centers of the US, Europe and Asia, and its customer base includes the world’s top OEMs, motherboard vendors and system integrators. www.via.com.tw

VIA Technologies, Inc.