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SolarNetOne Wants Stable Internet Connections For Developing Nations

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the where-there-is-no-internet dept.

Communications 73

There are many initiatives to bring tech to developing areas of the globe; things like OLPC, Geekcorps, and UN programs. One new approach from SolarNetOne strives to allow users in those developing areas to have access to an internet connection without having to depend on unreliable infrastructure. "Each SolarNetOne kit is a self-powered communications network. Energy is produced from a solar array sized to each locale's latitude and predominant weather conditions. The generated power is stored in a substantial battery array, and circuit breakers and electronics protect the gear from overloads and other perturbations. A basic kit includes five 'seats,' implemented as thin clients connected through a LAN to a central server. The networking gear also includes a long-range, omnidirectional WiFi access point, and a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) device. Each kit also includes all the cables and wires required to assemble the system, so few additional materials are required for an installation."

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Niggers on teh Internets? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557739)

A nigger on the internet is like a monkey with a computer.

Niggers are too lazy and dumb to use computers or the internet.

Is the digital divide really the problem here? (3, Insightful)

Palestrina (715471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557753)

Think of it this way, before 2000, or so, most people in the developed countries were not connected to the internet either. But that did not prevent us from attaining a high level of education, standard of living, etc. We landed a man on the moon with most engineers still using slide rules!

So I'm not buying it that the life of the average African would be substantially improved by their ability to download videos from YouTube. The article uses the example of Rwanda, that only 1% of the population can connect to the internet. OK, that is very low, I admit. But maybe decades of genocidal tribal warfare might also be a factor here, and addressing the root causes might a higher priority than the ability to set up a Facebook page.

I think it comes down to the basics: pubic safety, rule of law, market structures, literacy, infrastructure, etc. A connection to the internet can certainly help, in some cases. But in no way is it a necessity. Lower tech solutions may be more robust and effective, e.g., long distance shortwave radios, packet radio BBS's, etc.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557837)

While I agree with you, there are also some things to be gained from having access to the internet. For example how many people would care about the situation in Iran if Iran had no internet? The internet lets people empathize with others around the world and allows for new ideas to be shared that might help create a revolution. When the poor villages in Africa realize that their tribal overlords aren't helping them, that food isn't as scarce as they think it is, change will happen.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (4, Insightful)

Palestrina (715471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557959)

Didn't word of Tienanmen Square spread via fax machines?

My point is if you are looking for the greatest impact, then your idea of robustness needs to encompass more than the physical properties of the device. You're more likely to fail for lack of training, spare parts, support, basic infrastructure, etc. I think shortwave radio is far more robust. That is what we whip out in hurricanes, etc., when all the basic infrastructure is down. It is what works when nothing else does.

If I dropped you at a random spot in Africa, would you rather have a handheld shortwave radio? Or an iPhone?

(And forget for a moment that you would be more likely to be able to trade the iPhone for a ride to the nearest international airport)

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558023)

Very good point. I think people are a little too gungho about the Internet...although it is quite robust, it's not quite as robust as the old shortwave radio. I guess projects are more likely to get funded if they mention the Internet...

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558253)

Combined Internet device/shortwave radio?

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559167)

I think that this is what you're looking for. [febo.com] Well, sort of anyhow. The problem is, that amateur radio is only supposed to be used for non-commercial purposes, so people can't access the 'general' Internet via Ham Radio (adverts, commercial sites, etc). Also, that link is, I think, somewhat dated - it discusses tcp/ip as a totally seperated system from the O/S. I think there are now Amateur TCP/IP implementations that integrate with the native O/S TCP/IP stacks, so that you could use any program that you would use with the 'commercial' Internet, with the Ham Internet.

But, my point is, the technology to do TCP/IP over radio has, of course, been there for a long time. Shortwave radio, I'll warn you, is only good for very slow (think modem speeds, and even slower, depending on the band - 300bps to maybe 9600bps (I suppose if you were operating outside the Ham bands, in your own chunk of shortwave frequencies, you could maybe go faster, but dont' expect broadband speeds).

However, I think setting up WiFi-based 'grid networks' in developing countries is a great idea, but as others have mentioned, what those countries really need is a lot more basic than WiFi. If you address the problems of warlords/dictators and ethnic cleansing, corrupt governments, etc, those countries will build their own Internet infrastructure. It's just a matter of having a stable economy (it might take a few years, while those countries are developing the more basic parts of the economy -bfood, transportation, clothing and other basic manufactured goods, resources like timber, coal, concrete, etc, but once enough people have enough 'disposable' income, then Internet services should have no problem in those countries - I expect that 'the Internet' for developing countries will first come in the form of digital cell phone networks, then expand from there.)

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#28564461)

I think that this is what you're looking for. [febo.com]

Or this [peoplefirst.net.sb] . I've been actively supporting the work done by the People First Network (specifically their efforts to get a similar project up and running in neighbouring Vanuatu) for years now. PFNet has a network of dozens of HF radio stations transmitting email to the farthest reaches that lacks even the most basic infrastructure.

The service they provide is essential, even saving lives occasionally. When a 7.0 earthquake caused a tsunami in one remote area of the Solomons, PFNet staff were the first to generate casualty and damage reports, accompanied by photos and other documentary evidence. Thanks to their early warning, people downstream of the tsunami received a warning in time to move to higher ground.

However, I think setting up WiFi-based 'grid networks' in developing countries is a great idea, but as others have mentioned, what those countries really need is a lot more basic than WiFi.

Actually, there are few more basic needs than communications. I've been writing a weekly column on the topic [imagicity.com] for a little over 2 years now, looking at the issue of communications in the South Pacific region. The more I look at the issue, the more I realise that, especially in places where infrastructure (both political and physical) is lacking, poor communications slows everything down.

Access to information and the ability to share knowledge makes everything easier. I'm currently helping one project to build and repair roads throughout the country. One of their first prerequisites was ensuring that they'd have good communications between their work crews and the capital. Solutions like this networ-in-a-box are exactly on the mark. They serve a critical need.

If you address the problems of warlords/dictators and ethnic cleansing, corrupt governments, etc, those countries will build their own Internet infrastructure.

Let's ignore warlords for the moment, because about 90% of the developing world doesn't have to deal with them. As far as corrupt politicians are concerned, well... everyone has them. Everyone. In the country where I live, the biggest problem is that the MP gets elected, disappears to the capital for 4 years, and only reappears at election time. If people could actually keep in touch with him, they might be able to actually get some representation from him. Without communications, though, it's just 'out of sight, out of mind.'

Building awareness about what constitutes real political ability, enabling more principled candidates to learn the tools of their craft and - most importantly of all - enabling a dialogue with constituents scattered across large tracts of difficult terrain... all of this requires better communications than we have at the moment.

It's just a matter of having a stable economy

Not to nit-pick, but it's a matter of building a stable economy, and that doesn't happen without improved communications. Internet is the horse, and it's helping to pull the economic cart.

I expect that 'the Internet' for developing countries will first come in the form of digital cell phone networks, then expand from there.)

That's exactly what we've done [imagicity.com] here, anyway.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28583041)

"I expect that 'the Internet' for developing countries will first come in the form of digital cell phone networks"
          Replace "will first come" with *has* first come and you are right. There's far more countries in Africa, India, SE Asian countries, etc. that already have at least 144kbps CDMA data than I *possibly* would have expected (let alone any GSM systems they may have.)

          Don't know about cost, but most of these areas ALREADY have internet available -- they just skipped straight over running copper to everyone's house, using wireless instead -- and a directional antenna if you're "out of range" with a regular cell phone. GSM has an inherent distance limit of ~22 miles, but CDMA sites are usable past 50 miles (if they are set up for range).

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Taxman415a (863020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560203)

Wikipedia's article about that [wikipedia.org] mostly talks about the FCC restrictions, but I suppose you wouldn't have to worry about that in the developing world. In other words it looks perfectly feasible, but it's a regulatory issue.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (2, Insightful)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558231)

C'mon now... Can't I just download the shortwave radio app from the iPhone store?

FTA:Moreover, many countries have makeshift, fragile utility grids, rendering computers and uplinks useless during what are typically interminable outages. Worse, a natural disaster or civil emergency can cause widespread failure of infrastructureâ"ironically, just as the very same facilities are needed to communicate and coordinate with relief workers and local populations. Shipping containers full of recycled computers from the United States and other world powers do little good without electricity.

Seriously though, it seems like an okay idea to make internet connectivity available to every village everywhere, but what happens when it breaks down for any number of reasons? Seems like those panels would be put to a lot better use providing energy for any needs in the event of one of these "fragile utility grid" having a failure than limiting it to just computer / internet access. We just had a grid failure due to a tornado, and I would have taken electricity over internet access given the option...

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

dfetter (2035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559597)

The difference in needed infrastructure between power and internet is approximately the difference in energy provided. Internet access can be provided for days or weeks off a relatively small battery pack, assuming that the sun doesn't shine over that time. Years otherwise. Electric power for that time requires large energy stores and generation capacity.

Let's try comparing apples to apples :)

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560573)

First, I didn't compare apples to anything other than apples. I might have compared apple sauce to apple juice (one of them takes a lot more apples to produce the same volume of product), but that doesn't invalidate my point.

I never said it would power everything, but a little all purpose electricity MIGHT be preferable to single purpose electricity that can only power their internet access. Given the option I'll take something that keeps my freezer running when the grid is down and my food from ruining if my other option is internet access.

Now, what does mostly invalidate my point is that this is not something that's going to sit in one person's dwelling. Instead, it is likely to be meant for community use. That might be okay for a collection of computers, but not for a refrigerator. I've seen our community fridge at work... maybe I'll stick with the internet.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28583075)

No! Have you tried just tying random solar panels into the grid in the US or anywhere else? They won't let you, for VERY good reasons:

          1) The power generation plants vary output based on demand; your panels will just be inserting random amounts of power into the grid, depending on how sunny it is.

          2) In a case of the grid being "unreliable" your panels will electrocute utilities workers by injecting power into what should be dead lines.

          There's solutions to all this, but it requires specialized equipment, not just janking panels into the grid. But... 3) These batteries would run a block of houses for maybe a minute if the batteries didn't simply melt (*IF* the houses didn't use much power, like ones I saw in Morocco...).. i.e. that's not really worth the trouble.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558701)

Sure, shortwave radio would be great to communicate with the authorities or other people in your country. But as for getting word out to people outside there, it doesn't work. Most people get on Facebook, YouTube or another social network every day. If they got a bit more info about a crisis in Africa on the internet they would be more prone to act on it then a generic news broadcast about something that is happening on the other side of the globe that doesn't effect you one way or another.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559515)

If I dropped you at a random spot in Africa, would you rather have a handheld shortwave radio? Or an iPhone?

If that placed happened to be Somalia, I would go with the iPhone. You may think I am joking but I am not [wikipedia.org] .

Arguably I'd rather have an AK-47 and a few bodyguards while visiting, but I should be able to either barrow a wifi signal from an internet cafe or make a call to the US without too much trouble.

For the locals it works fine with the other types of phones they use.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559559)

Oh and...

You're more likely to fail for lack of training, spare parts, support, basic infrastructure, etc.

Won't that give people jobs? Hell if computers and internet worked just fine here we'd all be unemployed or working at McDonalds.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559717)

If they have the stable internet connection mentioned in the article title, I think I'd rather have the iPhone...

iPhone or HF Radio? Both (1)

Weedhopper (168515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28567331)

You said shortwave, but I'm changing it slightly to HF.

The organization for which I normally work has policies about this kind of thing and almost all of our vehicles, without exception, are equipped with HF. The problem is, they don't work all the time, either. The vagaries of atmospheric conditions, time of day, blah blah blah and the skip zone, it's usually just as efficient to call on the phone instead of screwing around on the radio for half an hour. Because let's face it, even in Africa, if there's a large number of people there, someone's set up a cell tower.

For the past two years, I've carried my iPhone into several African countries and I tend to work pretty far from civilization. The GPS on the 3G was worth the full price of the iPhone alone. I'm about to get the GS for no other reason than the compass. Oh, and I tether, too. Usually hell of a lot cheaper if I can get a connection than what we get charged for data over a Thuraya or BGAN.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28669985)

What help is an airport, if you got no *money*? ^^

Is recording devices really the problem here? (2, Interesting)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558255)

"While I agree with you, there are also some things to be gained from having access to the internet. For example how many people would care about the situation in Iran if Iran had no internet?"

They'd care even less if cell-phones didn't come with cameras.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558847)

Plus, if people in Africa had Internet, they could Google [google.com] how to keep from starving to death.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559621)

I know you just trying to be funny but think about exactly what you just said.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28562493)

Yeah you're right. It's true what they say: Mod Points are the root of all evil.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559563)

While I agree with you, there are also some things to be gained from having access to the internet. For example how many people would care about the situation in Iran if Iran had no internet?

What does it matter if people in Rwanda (as specified in the grandparent) care about Iran? They can't do anything about it (and neither can people in the developed world) and caring about Iran doesn't help them with any of the problems they face.
 
Not that the internet really cares about anything but the latest shiny anyhow - Iran having been eclipsed by Micheal Jackson's death.
 

When the poor villages in Africa realize that their tribal overlords aren't helping them, that food isn't as scarce as they think it is, change will happen.

Yeah, they'll change from not being able to do anything about it to not being able to do anything about it while blogging, twittering, and joining Facebook groups to 'support' somebody doing something about it.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558061)

By and large, you are right. I made a post about this same thing...

But... the internet does have some useful information on it as well, and periodically, people stumble into it and become aware.

Yes, safety for groins everywhere! (0)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558167)

I'm definitely in favor of pubic safety, as you said. I should be the only person allowed to take a razor to my crotch.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (4, Insightful)

NoNeeeed (157503) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558291)

You are right, being able to watch youtube videos it not very useful.

Unless it's a youtube video about treating a livestock disease, or better techniques for planting.

Or perhaps being able to contact someone at the market *before* you set of on the three day trek to sell your crops/animals so that you know it's worth going and that you'll get a good price, rather than getting there and getting stiffed because you have to sell to *someone* but there's a glut.

Seriously, this isn't about being able to watch Star Wars parody videos on YouTube. It's about communication. In large, thinly populated countries, with terrible physical infrastructure, and sod-all education provision, communication can make a huge difference.

Mobile phones are massively popular in Africa, incredibly useful for farmers and traders, allowing them to organise, and work more efficiently. They have made a very real difference to the way these societies operate.

Remember, unlike the developed world, which is replacing otherwise functional communications infrastructure with the Internet, the developed world is jumping straight to it. This isn't about having the internet in Africa, it's about having any working communications system at all in Africa, and at the moment the best candidate systems are mobile phones and the internet.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (2, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559317)

There are plenty of lectures available online. The OP underestimates the potential of Youtube and similar stuff.

See: http://www.youtube.com/user/MIT [youtube.com]

Don't like MIT? Try Stanford then.
http://www.youtube.com/user/stanforduniversity [youtube.com]

Plenty more. e.g.
http://www.youtube.com/user/ucberkeley [youtube.com]

How about seeing what people can learn in IIT, India?

http://www.youtube.com/user/nptelhrd [youtube.com]

Or UNSW in Australia?

http://www.youtube.com/user/unswelearning [youtube.com]

Or "attend" a lecture given by the Noble Prize winner Richard Feynman?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M0e1lzB1lY [youtube.com]

Youtube is a good way to waste time for people who like to waste time.

But it is also a good way to learn stuff for people who want to learn stuff.

And it's far more efficient if students can figure out they hate a course way before they even sign up for it and thus don't waste time and money.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559433)

Unless it's a youtube video about treating a livestock disease, or better techniques for planting.

Why couldn't it be? Just because the value we find in youtube is in watching a crazy cat get out of a washing machine or some emo crying/singing doesn't mean that's all it could be for. The potential for teaching techniques to people who might otherwise be illiterate (or only read and write in a language used by a few hundred people) could be very useful.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559607)

Or perhaps being able to contact someone at the market *before* you set of on the three day trek to sell your crops/animals so that you know it's worth going and that you'll get a good price, rather than getting there and getting stiffed because you have to sell to *someone* but there's a glut.

People who've actually had experience with agriculture know that when an animal or crop is ready for sale - it's ready for sale. You don't have much of a choice because crops rot and animals cost money to hold ready for sale.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559985)

OK. Do you take it to the market to the North or to the market to the South. Which one has a better going rate at the moment?

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560419)

If you were going at the moment - that would be fine. But the poster specified a three day trek.

There's also the question of whether the market in the South means crossing a dangerous rapid, while the one to the North is via a smooth flat route. Etc... Etc...

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

bpsh (1377259) | more than 5 years ago | (#28710735)

The point about mobile phones is well made. The Internet is mainly useful when you can read, and read the language in which your chosen resources are written. A mobile phone is useful regardless of literacy or native language.

Nick

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (3, Informative)

IntricateEnigma (148093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558383)

The parent is correct. I've worked internationally, and very few problems can simply be solved by providing material possessions to those without them. You can donate a tractor to a village and even provide them training in how to use it, but chances are it will never see even a portion of its potential. Even the most trivial of maintenance tasks for us can become incredibly compounded and complicated out there even if they have enough of a fundamental grasp of how to perform the maintenance. Where do I get oil? What happens the first time it needs an "inexpensive" $200 part from the USA or Europe?

The most successful programs that bring change to an area focus more on teaching people how to fully take advantage of the resources already at their disposal. A singular technology or resource can be brought in and taught if its fundamentally simple (like a hand water pump; forget electric) or how to make and use soap with the materials around them. Believe me, some of those tasks are already arduous.

This project is incredibly useful though, just not for the natives or computer illiterate. Target groups would be the international companies or organizations who set up bases in country and need and know how to take full advantage of the internet as a resource.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (1)

FluidDruid85 (1543737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558509)

The way I see it, this isn't so much a question of a digitial divide, but rather one of infrastructure. It is much more cost effective to start off with a reliable internet connection over which you can deliver all other services (telephony, education services, etc), than outfit the area with, for example, shortwave radios and keep upgrading (to copper cable, then fibre, etc).

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (2, Insightful)

notarockstar1979 (1521239) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558963)

I think it comes down to the basics: pubic safety, rule of law, market structures, literacy, infrastructure, etc. A connection to the internet can certainly help, in some cases. But in no way is it a necessity. Lower tech solutions may be more robust and effective, e.g., long distance shortwave radios, packet radio BBS's, etc.

They taught us pubic safety in the military before we went to strange ports. It's important for everyone to know and will certainly increase quality of life.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28558975)

If your at home watching pornotube, your less likely to be out and about, doing all that genocidal tribal warfare.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28559223)

It's true... Pubic Safety should be the #1 concern of all nations on Earth.

Re:Is the digital divide really the problem here? (2, Insightful)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559529)

The one thing that we have always had that these developing nations haven't is the ability of the common people to get news and human events stories. When you connect the people you can easily see that there is little difference between you and the people your commander has just told you to wipe out. You can also see that the rest of the world is ready to condemn you for what you are about to do. So communications and information dissemination is the key to these peoples developing more civilization. So even if the digital divide itself isn't the problem fixing it also fixes what is the problem and I see no harm in killing two birds with one stone.

SPACE (1)

beatsme (1472991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557771)

Reliable? They should beam it from space. Duh.

Jamming and network (2, Interesting)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557779)

I was just wondering how this system would work inside a nation or region that is actively trying to censor internet access or jam any "illegal networks"; or if it is possible to create a system from this concept that would work in such nations.

Re:Jamming and network (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558321)

I would assume so, it's basically an over-sized wireless router, instead of being able to network with your neighbour, you can network with the other side of a city. I'm too lazy to bother looking further into it, but I would hope that it can (or it should) be able to sort of repair itself, ie: if you had 10 of these set up, then only one would need to be connected to the Internet, the rest would link through that one. In a really desperate situation you could drop (if they were completely self-contained, parachute them down, etc) like 100 of them in a row spaced to whatever their range is and cross a small country. If it's more densely propagated, then destruction of some of them wouldn't really make much difference, 30 seconds or whatever for them to route around it much like wired internet.

Re:Jamming and network (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558405)

I was just wondering how this system would work inside a nation or region that is actively trying to censor internet access or jam any "illegal networks"

Short answer? It doesn't.

This is an Internet Cafe in a Box. This is WiFi.

The base install costs 15 grand. The hardware has to clear customs.

You need an access point to the Internet.

There are antennas and solar panels, battery banks and all the rest that cannot be easily concealed. It will be trivially easy for the regime to find you.

You can encrypt the traffic - but you can't hide the transmission. Not without dramatically upping the stakes for everyone involved.

Protip: Do the opposite of what Charter does here. (2, Funny)

Blixinator (1585261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557855)

That way, you'll have the most stable and reliable connection imaginable.

Re:Protip: Do the opposite of what Charter does he (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28558097)

That way, you'll have the most stable and reliable connection imaginable.

I have Charter, can my town be declared a developing area?

Priorities (0, Redundant)

motherpusbucket (1487695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557887)

It seems like this should be a lower priority in developing nations. Not to make light of the situations in third world countries, but when your posting on FB that your mood is constantly 'hungry' or 'sick', something is wrong.

I want.... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557947)

Well I want a 12 inch pecker, a billion dollars, my own island nation, and immortality. After that you can have your damn internet connection.

And by doing so... (-1, Redundant)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558039)

... even developing countries can find media for masturbation, babble on and on about petty personal issues on social sites, and get spammed.

Not that it matters -- we're all just as stupid for the wastes of time we get involved in, developed country or not.

worked for Nigeria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28558107)

after all we gave them access to the worlds opportunities on an equal footing and the best thing they can do with it is try and scam people, setup a shop ? nahh, sell products and services that people want at western prices ? nahh.
it seems getting Africa online has brought nothing but hoards of spam and scammers.
In our company we deny access to all of Afrinet because of the trouble we have their citizens, its just not worth the bother.
Shame really, they could of started the next Amazon or Ebay (the web is a level playing field after all)

Essential Camping Equipment (3, Funny)

flatass (866368) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558137)

Now I just need a trailer to tow this baby along on our next family "camping" trip. God I love the great outdo.... wait! someone is wrong on the Internet! Kids your going to have to go hiking on your own.

The Internet can feed the world (0, Redundant)

ultraexactzz (546422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558147)

...but only if you can figure out a way to download food, clean water, and medicine.

I'm not certain that internet access is the best way to help developing nations, when so many more basic necessities are lacking. You can't download political stability, either - and many basic supplies are hijacked before reaching those most in need. You can't fix that with a laptop.

Re:The Internet can feed the world (4, Insightful)

gclef (96311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558399)

While that statement is true on it's surface, it's also missing the point entirely. You also can't pull a people out of poverty by giving them food. You pull them out of poverty by teaching them how to do things for themselves (and minimizing corruption, but that's another discussion).

Put another way, giving developing nations access to information is the long term solution...food aid is the short term one.

this is part of it (2, Informative)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558455)

Projects like this are part of "all of the above", part of getting food, clean water and medicine. The things needed to help people's and nations get to be better. I see a lot of comments about how useless this would be. On the contrary, given a village access to the net means they can learn about new ways to make indigenous water filters using cheap available resources. They can find out about newer methods of farming/sustainable agriculture. Look for new markets for their goods, or sources for cheaper goods they might need, tools, seeds etc. The access to just a lot of books and papers could help, from the schoolkids to the local overwhelmed medical person. It's not just one or the other that is needed in a lot of these places, it is all of it, all of the above. Civilization.

Some orgs concentrate on medicines/vaccines, others on food aid, others on..whatever. This is just another way to help, and to do it cheaper, to leapfrog the old model of very expensive centralized wired infrastructure for both power and communications, and go directly to decentralized models that are faster/cheaper and easier to deploy.

And socially, once people start to realize there is more than just the local tribe and the surrounding few square miles and whatever the local warlord or shaman dictates to them, beyond the abstract, with just a narrow and skewed jingoistic viewpoint, they can start to see we all need to get along better, because we are all human and have to share this planet, that we have more in common than what they might have been brainwashed into believing previously.

In other words, with less viewpoints being available, remaining insular and cutoff, it is easier for the local warlords and power goons to keep their populations controlled and under their thumb and doing nutso stuff. Once they see there are other ways to "think and do", at least it gets them considering saner and more rational alternatives.

We see it daily, look around at the headlines, dictatorship/regime X, the first thing they try to do if it looks like their rule might be threatened is they cut off and restrict and censor communications. This is *precisely* why we should encourage more widespread and open and free-er communications, *especially* in areas that have a rather severe lack of them to begin with.

Re:The Internet can feed the world (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559815)

Apparently Heinlein was right, you can actually download those things, I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out how.


Communications are so helpful.

A much better Answer... (2, Insightful)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558173)

The U.S. has nearly broken the bank, fighting for freedom by, well, fighting.

Even in 2001, some technical people felt the better way to promote freedom would be to work to establish communications in countries that are now beset with violence and poverty and totalitarian control by oppressive governments (none of these three problems necessarily being related, mind you).

There exist problems with doing this. One is addressed by this idea, how do you even make computers work where the utilities and support are unreliable if not non-existent. But the advantage of this is limited if you don't deal with a second problem: How you link people into the internet in a way that denies oppressors and/or conflicts from breaking these connections (as Iran has attempted to do lately)?

Then of course, there is the problem of actually doing something. How do you get governments/people/companies to invest in the tiny costs (when compared to fighting in Iraq and elsewhere) of deploying such technology in places where it would be needed. The U.S. and its government is much more interested in dropping million dollar bombs to blow up stuff, than dropping a few bills in a way that would actually have leverage with the people of this world, and that would actually be appreciated.

Bombs and war are disruptive and prevent people from both hearing the ideas about peace and tolerance and telling their own ideas and stories to the world. We need a technology that both gives people a voice no matter what their circumstances, and the ability to join the dialog about such problems even if the power doesn't run all the time.

I hope people take such ideas seriously, and actually do something other than just sell these systems to rich people that like mountain cabins.

Is it appropriate ... (1, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558425)

Let's say that you get these people online. They certainly won't be using the Internet in any manner remotely similar to how we use it. Consider the following:

1. Very few resources will be in their native language. This means that very few people in these countries can use it to learn more effective agricultural practices, learn how to obtain safe drinking water, or learn how the reduce the spread of disease. (Not to mention the millions of other things that we have access to with a keyword search.) A few people will be able to do this because they will have a second language that is used online, and will use it because they want to figure out how to solve local problems. Thing is, those are the people who would have sought out resources anyways.

2. Very few websites are designed for low bandwidth and low reliability connections. I work in a town with a satellite connection to the internet. Minimum latency on that is 0.25 seconds to go from the Earth to the satellite and back. Furthermore, satellite is expensive so bandwidth is limited. (A thousand people are served by less bandwidth than the typical Slashdotter has going into their home.) You would be surprised at how much stuff breaks (e.g. timeouts on either the client or server end) and how ploddingly slow stuff is. And that is using a relatively good connection to the outside world. Even if none of their infrastructure used satellites for any portion of the network, they would still have to deal with high latency due to most of the world's online resources being concentrated in developed nations.

Both of these issues (and a few others) means that the people who use communications technologies in the developing world will be primarily concerned with local communications. At which point you may as well ditch IP and use something that is more appropriate to their needs.

Re:Is it appropriate ... (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559813)

This means that very few people in these countries can use it to learn more effective agricultural practices, learn how to obtain safe drinking water, or learn how the reduce the spread of disease.

It's even worse than you describe. Even if they understood every word about more effective agricultural practices, even if they understood every word about the need for clean drinking water, even if they understood every word about how to reduce the spread of the disease (see: clean water), they do not and will not actually follow that advice because they do not believe it.

When a wave of child rape sweeps the continent because witch doctors tell adult men that fucking a virgin can cure AIDS, do you really think that what they read on a computer is going to teach them anything? They still believe the witch doctors! And if they don't, their neighbors will first shun them and later kill them, for being heretics. They may or may not actually use any word that translates directly to the English concept of heretic, but guaranteed they'll use a word that can at least translate to "other". And humans kill that which is other, even in the developed world.

No amount of technology can change culture. Culture changes to accept technology, or it doesn't. America might still have a manufacturing economy, if Americans were willing to perform the cultural shift required to accept robotic manufacturing. They weren't. So we aren't. SolarNetOne is one of many many ignorant do-gooders who do harm, because they are eternally putting the cart before the horse. The horse just won't run when you do that. Northern Africa will not change until northern Africans decide to change their own culture. Only when the entire culture shifts so that tribal warfare is approved of by the minority, instead of the majority, do they have a chance. Until then, any one who believes that is other, and dies.

Re:Is it appropriate ... (2, Insightful)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559927)

I can't fix the roof cause it's raining...boo hoo

What about me? (1)

Krojack (575051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558511)

I want stable internet and I live in a developed nation!

Comcast business = crap

- The net often goes down 6+ times a day.

- When the net doesn't go down the cable modem seems to run out of memory for its routing table so random websites will stop loading. Rebooting the mobem will fix this. Slashdot's IP was one a while back and I thought Comcast was just blocking /. I had to go to http://star.slashdot.com/ [slashdot.com] to read anything.

- Field techs have been out here countless times and are as dumb as a sack of bricks. We have the cell number of one that seems to know what he's doing.

Problem still not fixed 2 months later.

Re:What about me? (1)

Krojack (575051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558527)

Blah.. meant ".org" for the /. url. Still to early in the morning for me.

Re:What about me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28561083)

So you live in Atlanta too?

Cell Phones? (2, Interesting)

johnnyR (211170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558937)

I think a cell phone network and donated refurbished cell phones would have a bigger and better impact

Re:Cell Phones? (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560005)

I think it is possible that used TV's and broadcasting equipment with an uninterrupted Time/Warner cable subscription would be as useful, but just as quickly made useless as the cell phones.

Me, me! (1)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558973)

One new approach from SolarNetOne strives to allow users in those developing areas to have access to an internet connection without having to depend on unreliable infrastructure.

Much as I hate to be greedy, any chance we could accomplish this in the US of A?

Re:Me, me! (3, Insightful)

StellarFury (1058280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559053)

I'm not sure that no-infrastructure internet is possible in a heavily-bureaucratized, corporate-dominated country like this.

Unless you're talking about just the "unreliable" infrastructure part. In which case it's still impossible in a heavily-bureaucratized, corporate-dominated country like this.

Re:Me, me! (2, Insightful)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559117)

"Reliable" would be good enough for me.

Re:Me, me! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560589)

To paraphrase the telecom apologists: broadband economics are different in a sparsely populated country such as the USA than they are in regions of higher density, like sub-Saharan Africa.

Translation: We have Congress by the balls. Good luck, sucker.

10 years experience in Developing Countries (2, Informative)

cenc (1310167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559101)

I have been working the IT related fields in Latin America for over 10 years, both rural and urban. I have also spent some time teaching in China.

One problem I see with this article is that it makes no mention of how they get the internet connectivity. Is it sat? Is it connecting to an existing upstream provider? Both are often unrealistic is developing countries even inside urban areas because of reliability issues, corruption, cost, monopolies, and so on. In rural areas there simply are not options, and because of low population with limited economic resources it is too expensive to provide it.

The other problem that is an even greater issue is when the dam thing breaks, there are very very few people to maintain them. If someone has sufficient know how to fix something like this, chances are they are working for someone that pays a lot more (in local terms) because there is high demand for very few qualified IT people. Again, in rural areas they are often none existent. Anyone with those sorts of skills leaves. I have run in to this problem, even when money was no issue. There simply is no one to provide the support.

And there was much rejoicing - 419 is just a game! (0, Troll)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560255)

I go chop your dollar
I don suffer no be small
Upon say I get sense
Poverty no good at all, no
Na im make I join this business
419 no be thief, its just a game
Everybody dey play am
if anybody fall mugu, ha! my brother I go chop am

Chorus
National Airport na me get am
National Stadium na me build am
President na my sister brother
You be the mugu, I be the master
Oyinbo I go chop your dollar, I go take your money dissapear
419 is just a game, you are the loser I am the winner
The refinery na me get am,
The contract, na you I go give am
But you go pay me small money make I bring am
you be the mugu, I be the master⦠na me be the master ooo!!!!

When Oyinbo play wayo, them go say na new style
When country man do im own, them go de shout bring am, kill am, die!
Oyinbo people greedy, I say them greedy
I don see them tire thats why when them fall enter my trap o!
I dey show them fire

`mod d0wn (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28560639)

context matters (2, Interesting)

Kargoroth (1534695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28569847)

all by itself it mights not seem like much but if that selfsustainable minilan were deployed in a school, or an other education center, or a hospital, than it would make a significant difference.
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