Intel to invest $1 billion in emerging markets

The money will be spent to help bring computers, training and Internet connectivity to emerging nations.

Intel will spend more than $1 billion during the next five years to help bring computers, training and Internet connectivity to emerging nations.

Called the World Ahead program, the effort essentially expands on other programs Intel has conducted to bring computing to countries like India and China, particularly to people who live in small cities and villages. Though India has become a software powerhouse, it's estimated that the country a year ago had only 14 PCs for every 1,000 people.

Intel will provide equipment under the program as well as teacher training.

The program will also let the company lay some of the groundwork for future sales as the markets in these nations mature. Intel, after all, entered China back in the 1980s and was able to capitalize on the growth of the tech industry in that country.

WiMax--the long-range wireless networking standard heavily promoted by Intel--will figure prominently in the program. Overall, Intel is involved in 175 WiMax trials worldwide, a representative said.

PCs, naturally, will also play a big part. The company is currently working on six different PCs that will come out during the next six years tuned for various geographies.

Intel has already come out with a few PCs and software applications tailored for particular geographies. A PC for India unveiled last year, for instance, comes in a sealed case to keep out dust and runs off a car battery, important in a country where blackouts are a daily occurrence. Meanwhile, in China, Intel devised software to let managers of Internet cafes .

Paul Otellini, the company's CEO, is expected to sketch out the program further in a speech at the World Congress of IT, a biennial event taking place this week in Austin, Texas.

Various companies and academics have put forth plans for bridging the digital divide. The ideas can roughly be broken down into four categories: more-rugged PCs promoted by Intel and Via Technologies; a cell phone that can be hooked into a phone or monitor, promoted by Microsoft; thin clients, touted by companies in India; and inexpensive devices that are similar to PCs. This is the so-called $100 laptop from MIT's Nicholas Negroponte.

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