Please note - Ndiyo has now officially closed its doors, at least as a legal entity - but we've kept the site alive in case any of the information is useful to others.

Our thanks to all those who helped out and were involved in so many different ways! The Ndiyo legacy lives on in the ultra-thin-client work at its spin-off DisplayLink, at Plugable, at NoPC and elsewhere...

Ndiyo in the Economist

The Sept 23rd edition of the Economist includes a piece entitled

An extract:

...Perhaps the best-known project is the one dreamt up by a bunch of academics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge. The scheme, called “One Laptop Per Childâ€, aims to use a variety of novel technologies to reduce the cost of a laptop to $100 and to distribute millions of the machines to children in poor countries, paid for by governments. Nicholas Negroponte, the project's co-founder, says he is in talks to deliver 1m units apiece to the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria and Thailand. But across the Atlantic in Cambridge, England, another band of brainy types has cooked up a different approach. They have devised a device that allows one PC to be used by many people at once.

The organisation is called Ndiyo (the Swahili word for “yesâ€), and was founded by Quentin Stafford-Fraser, a former researcher at AT&T. “We don't want to have cut-down computers for poor people,†he says. “We want them to have what we have—so we need to find a better way to do it.†The system exploits a little-used feature in operating systems that permits multiple simultaneous users. Ndiyo's small, cheap interface boxes allow multiple screens, keyboards and mice to be linked to a single PC cheaply via standard network cables.

This allows a standard PC running Linux, the open-source operating system, to be shared by between five and ten people. Computers today are many times more powerful than those of just a few years ago, but are idle much of the time. Ndiyo is returning computing to its roots, to a time when they were shared devices rather than personal ones. “We can make computing more affordable by sharing it,†says Dr Stafford-Fraser, as he hunches over a ganglion of wires sprouting from machines in Ndiyo's office. In much of the world, he says, a PC costs more than a house. Internet cafés based on Ndiyo's technology have already been set up in Bangladesh and South Africa. Mobile phones are used to link the shared PCs to the internet.

...Will any of this work? In the past, efforts to bring computers to the poor often failed because they were based on Western ideas of how technologies ought to be used or paid for. Governments and foundations doled out money, only to see it poorly spent or pocketed by middlemen. And when market-oriented approaches were tried, they often presumed that PCs were things individuals owned and paid for upfront. By borrowing ideas from mobile phones and taking greater account of local conditions, these schemes have a better chance of making computing accessible. “We need to find a solution,†says Dr Stafford-Fraser. “This is not necessarily the best solution — but it does work now.â€

The full article is available from the Economist web site