Friday, March 6, 2009

Encouraging Peasants to Buy Computers

China already has the most internet users in the world. The government wants even more of its citizens to get comfortable with using computers though.

From PC World:

Photo from Thomas Niccum

China is offering subsidies to people in rural areas who buy PCs as part of a massive economic stimulus package the government hopes will keep the country from sliding into recession.

The subsidy program offers a rebate of 13 percent of the purchase price to rural Chinese who purchase a computer. The program could help domestic and multinational PC makers expand sales to less-developed but growing regions of China after national demand for computers fell well below expectations in the last quarter of 2008.

"We applaud the Chinese government for launching these kinds of programs," said Steve Felice, president of Dell's Small and Medium Business division. "We think that will help them enhance the lives of nearly 900 million farmers throughout China and help boost domestic consumption."

Lenovo, China's largest PC maker, also embraced the program. The company will extend its sales network to 320,000 villages over the next three years, it said Wednesday. It offers 15 computer models eligible for the subsidy program, ranging in price from 2,500 renminbi (US$365) to 3,500 renminbi, it said.

In comparison, average income for rural Chinese residents was 4,761 renminbi last year, far below the figure for urban residents of 15,781 renminbi, according to the country's statistics bureau.

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I think it's great that more people can have the chance to use the computers and to have access to technology that makes the world smaller. I remember reading an article in the New York Times last year that discussed the huge array of benefits poor in third world countries can enjoy from being exposed to new technologies. Computers and internet access can make huge differences in poor peoples' lives.

Saying that, I'm not sure if a new PC is what rural Chinese need right now. As the articles I linked up to in yesterday's post stated, millions of Chinese farmers are facing really tough "bread-and-butter" issues right now. Trying to get people who are struggling to buy luxury items such as computers doesn't make tons of sense.

It seems as though this scheme to induce China's countryside to buy computers might be jumping a step or two in the process of getting their lives up to a higher standard.

It is true that China, a nation of savers, needs to try to induce its people to be less frugal and spend its way out of recession. And there may very well be a large segment of China's population which is ready to make the jump to owning a computer. So this plan is probably worth a shot.

But my guess is that PC purchases are not even near the top of the shopping list of most Chinese peasants.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've recently spent some time this summer in 2 Chinese villages and I did ask them about buying computers and the internet. They laughed in my face, and I could not help but smile.

The reasons are many, so I put them into a blog post. I found that they have little extra money, are not convinced a computer is useful, and internet connectivity is prohibitively expensive. There is also no infrastructure available to support them. In fact, they are just getting used to cellular phones. With migrant labour relatives returning to the villages, money will be tighter than ever.