Computers can be run very efficiently with batteries. These
can then be recharged with solar or petrol motor power (in
the rainy season). For example while a vehicle is in
regular use - batteries can be recharged off the cigarette
lighter receptical (12 V DC). The investment in supplying
reliable power would be considerably less than the computers
themselves. NiCad batteries are sufficient for powering
older laptops. I recently purchased an older lap-top with 2
battery packs, LC screen and 50 MB hard drive with a 4800
baud modem for $225.
I am using this computer for packet radio communications.
The computer is using a Baycom 1200 baud packet modem.
Along with the software - this was purchased for $49. This
enables me to use VHF packet nodes.
Of course, powering printers would require more power but
these too are currently available in compact and low power
The "packet station" I described can be used to hook up to
low pass satellites for extraterrestrial communication with
addition of proper antennas and a more specialized
communication controller/TNC/modem for the satellite service
to be accessed.
A good configuration for a "remote" no-mainline-power
community would be setting up a node with a satellite
gateway and have it available as a BBS for local people to
access their E-mail. The satellite gateway will be the
local communications provider.
My experience comes from living in Africa and packet amateur
radio under filed conditions with "emergency" power. I also
set-up a battery packet message center for EPA's Earth Day
located at the Washington Monument this year.