Peruvian family firm designs eco-friendly laptop meant for long-term use

Photo: EFE

Photo: EFE

10:14 | Lima, Sep. 5.

Amid a consumer landscape in which increasingly sophisticated computers are continually entering the marketplace, a family of Peruvian entrepreneurs has launched an eco-friendly, wooden, low-cost laptop that is designed to last between 10 and 15 years and give marginalized populations greater access to technology.

Developed by a family of socially conscious professionals, the Wawalaptop combines a green design with free software to create a computer aimed at extending the new technologies to the Andean nation's most remote areas.

Wawalaptop CEO Alejandra Carrasco told EFE that their entrepreneurial dream stemmed from the trips her family made to rural parts of Peru, where she observed first-hand that many children lack technological resources at their schools.

The Carrascos —a family made up of computer specialists, marketing experts and Alejandra, a 17-year-old pre-university student— decided they had to take action to solve the problem.

"We felt the need to give a little something back to society. So we began with these SBCs (Single Board Computers) and started working to create the first prototype," computer engineer Javier Carrasco, Wawalaptop's technology manager, said.

In 2015, the company developed its first low-cost desktop computer and took it to different parts of the Peru's Andes and Amazon regions so children could try it out.

Later, the company created what is now known as the Wawalaptop 2.0, a 10.1-inch (25.65-centimeter) laptop whose body is made of recyclable medium-density fiberboard, an engineered wood product.

Its most distinctive feature, however, is its ability to be easily disassembled for upgrading purposes, a characteristic that encourages "wawas" (small children in the Quechua language family) to use their creativity and imagination.

"We want them to be able to be creative with their Wawalaptop, to be able to carry out all the product upgrades. Of course, having the training so they can do it themselves," Carrasco said.

The laptop's software is based on the Linux free operating system, which provides greater freedom to users, while the device can be powered by solar energy or regular electricity.

Wawalaptop, which already has won a start-up award from Peru's Ministry of Production, is now looking to manufacture its product on a larger scale with a view to selling it to different non-governmental organizations at a cost of S/799 (about US$235) a piece.

The company's aims are twofold: spur educational improvement by providing vulnerable populations with greater access to new technologies and achieve that aim with an eco-friendly product.

"The idea is that the student in third or fourth grade of elementary school can have this laptop over time. Enter high school with the Wawalaptop 3.0 or 4.0 and then continue to have it in university by simply doing an upgrade," Javier Carrasco said.

The amount of the upgrade, he said, is roughly 20 percent of the total product cost and basically represents the price of a new circuit board, which can be obtained on the international market for US$35.

Upgrading an existing computer also has an environmental benefit, in that it can help avoid the accumulation in Peru of tons of technological waste. 

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Published: 9/5/2019