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 Saturday, 06 February 2010

Jhai PC, initially designed for Laos, now attracts interest of people in 65 countries. India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ghana are among such countries. It is a project of Jhai Foundation. Founded in 1997 by Vietnam era combat veteran and a Lao war refugee Lee Thorn, Jhai foundation focuses on four key areas: education, technology, health and economic development. Jhai Foundation’s major funding has come from Cisco Systems, World Bank, Soros Foundations, Sweden, Canada and individual donors.  Jhai Foundation has been honored with a "Best Practices" award from the United Nations Secretariat, e-ASEAN, UNESCO (Bangkok), the government of Lao PDR and others.


JhaiPC is a tough, rugged computer, to withstand monsoon rains, humidity and extreme temperatures and linked to web by satellite; comes with Open Office, Firefox, ReMeDi telemedicine proprietary app, and Jhai Networks™ (at dial up speeds supporting audio, video, whiteboard, text, all file sharing, for peer-to-peer or groups up to 300), with a price under $ 200. When used off-grid, various power options can be chosen, depending on local conditions, including bicycle-generators, solar, wind, hydro, and others. The special thing about the low-cost, low-power JhaiPC is that it is matched to the needs and resources of rural people in clinics, schools or community centers. The JhaiPC supports voice and video conferencing through Jhai Networks, a new communication suite. The computer brings villagers weather reports, current prices for their rice crops and weavings, and contact with relatives living abroad. In collaboration with Schools Online, Jhai Foundation has established four ILCs in high schools since 2000. All, but one, are in rural areas. Each facility contains 10 new PCs linked in a LAN together with a printer, a scanner, four microphones/headsets, and a digital camera.

In 2001, Laotian villagers came to Thorn with a request: phone and Internet connectivity; they asked for a computer for Phonkham. Jhai had done computer projects in schools and hospitals, but Phonkham’s remote location demanded a whole new approach. Lee Felsenstein, a pioneer in the personal computer field, designed the first JhaiPC to work on very low power, using electricity generated by a stationary bicycle and connected by Wi-Fi to a relay station on top of a hill and then 11 kilometers [seven miles] to the nearest phone line. With funds from individual donors, the governments of Canada and Sweden, and the US State Department, Felsenstein assembled the first Jhai PC himself. "The Jhai PC is built of 'embedded' circuit boards," says Felsenstein, "of the sort that is used in industrial equipment. These are rugged and devoid of moving parts such as fans or disc drives, made to operate for long periods of time without service or attention.”

Link for Interview of Lee Thorn (founder of Jhai Foundation)

Link for video of paddled powered JhaiPC installed in Laos


Sources: Information extracted from Jhai Foundation website, Christian Science Monitor, Wi-Fi Planet

The African Virtual University (AVU) is a Pan African Intergovernmental Organization whose aim is to significantly increase access to quality higher education and training through the innovative use of information communication technologies.