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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Low-Cost Computers in Thailand - 2003-05-27

Broadcast: May 26, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The government of Thailand has a new program to sell as many as one million low-cost computers to the public. Thailand's minister of information, communication and technology, Surapong Suebwonglee [SUE-ray-pong su-EB-wong-lee], developed the campaign.

Mister Surapong reportedly had read a story about low-cost technology in the United States. The story was about the American store Wal-Mart selling computers for around two-hundred dollars. Britain's Financial Times newspaper says Mister Surapong later learned that the price did not include the monitor. But he decided to make computers something people without much money could buy. He called on local computer makers for help.

Under the program, the machines will cost between about two-hundred-fifty and four-hundred-fifty dollars. This is about half the price of the least expensive computer now on sale in Thailand.

Costs are low because older technology will be used. However, Mister Surapong says each machine will be able to connect to the Internet. In addition, people may be able to buy newer technology for their computers.

The machines will run on the Linux operating system. Linus Torvalds created this program while studying at the University of Helsinki in Finland. He made the system free to the public in nineteen-ninety-four. Computer programmers around the world have since added improvements to the Linux operating system.

Mister Surapong says the goal of the campaign is to help more people learn about computers. This, he says, will help make Thailand more economically competitive. A loan program has been set up to help buyers pay for their computer.

Recently, thousands of Thais waited for hours in the heat on the first day to pay money toward the purchase of a laptop or desktop computer. But some were not happy with what they found. They said the computers were not powerful enough for their needs, or in some cases did not have floppy disk or CD-ROM drives included.

The information technology minister says the campaign is aimed at people who want to buy their first computer. He says people who want better machines can buy them from a store. Officials expect the first shipment of computers on July first.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.