Intel is leveraging its World Ahead Program,an education initiative, and the roll-out of WiMax, a wireless technology, to become a major stakeholder in promoting and providing Internet connectivity in Africa. Craig Barrett, Intel's Chairman and member of the United Nation's Global Alliance for ICT and Development, has been a highly visible online spokesman for Intel's strong belief that all citizens should have access to the Internet. However, one element has been missing on blogs and in news articles: a frank discussion of Intel’s commercial interests in the emerging African market. Through its connectivity and education programs, Intel is creating brand recognition and a loyal consumer base. It is also an innovative leader in establishing an accessible and affordable ICT foundation, and preparing citizens to be effective participants in the global knowledge economy. In the case of Africa, the question remains as to whether the opportunity and competition in emerging markets will motivate the private sector to deliver both social and economic returns on investment.
Video: Intel's Social Investment in the Developing World
Video Courtesy of Media Link
The fusion between Intel’s education programs and commercial interests is illustrated in the Digital Inclusion Project in Nigeria.Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and as Craig Barrett expressed, it "... is an emerging market that can't be ignored." Intel, in collaboration with the Education Trust Fund, is investing $10.1 million dollars in Nigeria to develop digital curriculum content for secondary schools. Through Intel’s World Ahead Program, the project will promote one-on-one learning through personal computers, with programs covering different subject matter areas. About 150,000 teachers will be trained and over 3,000 computers will be donated to students and schools. Teachers and students will benefit from Intel's investment, and become trained users of their technology. (To learn more about Intel's education investment, please visit the wiki page Nigeria:Corporate Support and Sponsorship.)
Intel's access initatives with the competitive market also converged with the launch of the the Classmate laptop. The Classmate is a direct competitor to One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Both laptops have similar capabilities and durability, but the processor in the Classmate is made by Intel, while OLPC's is produced by AMD, a competitor. Intel has been criticized for creating competition in the affordable laptop market. For OLPC to meet full-scale production operation, they need an order of three million laptops. Intel is marketing its Classmate to the same countries as OLPC. The debate is whether Intel is boosting competition or competing for funding.
In Africa's race for ICT, competitive market motivations need to be taken into account. Intel is pioneering an emerging market business model that they hope will generate both social and economic returns on investment. To achieve both these goals, Intel will have to closely monitor and control their programs and markets. Quantitative metrics will not be sufficient to understand both the social and commercial demands the emerging market. A mix method evaluation approach, incorporating qualitative methodology, will be necessary to understand the unpredictable, contextual ICT needs of the African population. Understanding those needs will help ensure the quality delivery of social and commercial services and products. Craig Barrett said it best, "We do not just look at tomorrow or only one set of indicies," he said. "We look at the totality of the market and we're extremely optimistic."