San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Canadian Firm Plans to Offer High-Tech Phone

A Canadian computing firm is set to pioneer here a new computer-cum-telephone designed to help entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Koolu, owned by Andrew Greig, is set to launch the WePhone this summer from a planned base in Liberia, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, possibly triggering a mini-bonanza for the Costa Rican economy.

The palm-sized devices – which allow access to telephone and Internet calls, e-mail and the Web – are to be given a test run in Costa Rica.

Greig says the WePhone is principally intended to help people in developing countries start and manage small and mediumsized businesses by enabling instant access to a range of means of communication. The concept is similar to the One Laptop per Child project, which sought to improve education in developing world countries. The WePhone will be sold for a reported $399.

The product, built in Taiwan, uses opensource software, one of which is known as Linux, a type of program that anyone can access and use. Greig says that bringing such programs to the attention of business-minded people in the developing world is one of the company’s principal goals.

According to Greig, the test marketing of the WePhone here could create as many as 100 jobs if the initiative takes off, with a number of local businesses and institutions at the forefront of the initiative.

Datatell 3000, which is also working with Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) to roll out WiMax wireless Internet connection across the country, would be the distributer of the Koolu products in Costa Rica.

Negotiations are already underway with the country’s EARTHUniversity in a bid to place some of the devices in the institution’s Liberia-based campus.

Rector José Zaglul told the daily La Nación that university officials were “very interested” in the new technology and were in the process of finding out if the devices can be of use to the university.

EARTH has already acquired 10 Extreme Green Computers, another Koolu creation.

The systems, which also use open-source software, are marketed as ecofriendly. Going green is another of the principles the firm claims to follow and is in keeping with the Costa Rican government’s pleas for the nation to conserve energy as part of its bid for carbon neutrality by 2021.

The computers operate at a 10-watt energy level, compared to the 100 watts used by more traditional computers, according to Koolu.

EARTH is studying the effectiveness of the systems against those that use the more widely employed Windows program.


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