Guess all this has been largely subsumed by cheap phones. Phones are the CheapComputers that most people have.
Previously (early 2000s)
Right now, Walmart are demanding that their suppliers introduce disposable printed RFID tags. The same technology should make it possible to print a basic WiFi connected terminal onto a beer-mat sized piece of plastic. Bars are the wealthy hubs of poor communities. And it seems plausible that a bar could afford a cheap, mass-produced server / wi-fi hub which could connect customers using these cheap devices to the internet.
What would be the killer app./ business model of this?
What could the poor (and illiterate) do with this stuff?
- news and email. Even the poor have families living far away (for the illiterate, cheap voice over IP telephone calls and voice mail.) Would the cost be very different from a standard phone?
- legal / financial ID. Maybe connected to a micro-lending scheme. Users would be able to visit the bar, log in using a personal code number and access a bank account / micro-credit account. They could pay small amounts of money into the account at the bar (or other local facility) and check their account through the terminal. Possibly the bar would be able to offer online gambling services with this money. I know that's a twisted idea, but I'm thinking laterally. The chance of skimming a bit more cash from the customers' through offering the services as a kind of glorified fruit-machine might be what persuades the bar owner that it's worth it. The customers will lose some money, but maybe gain more from the access to the net.
- looking for work in local towns and cities. An online job bulletin board may allow the users to discover casual work in the locality. (When it's several hours to walk to a farm or town, being able to find out where work is when you're at the bar the night before might be very useful.