Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Michigan State Professor Helps Bring Broadband Internet To Rural Africa (Video)

Roblimo posted more than 2 years ago | from the millions-of-new-Facebook-users-coming-soon dept.


Roblimo writes "Assistant Professor Kurt DeMaagd, of Michigan State's Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, runs a program that brings broadband Internet to villages in Tanzania that have never known connectivity better than what they get with non-smart cell phones. Lots of students are involved, and Kurt (who was one of Slashdot's co-founders many years ago) believes the students get as much out of the project as the people in Tanzania who are its primary beneficiaries. Setting up not only computer networks but also satellite communications and solar arrays in areas where you can't zip on down to the local computer or hardware store for parts you forgot teaches how to work under adverse conditions, and how to plan in advance instead of winging everything at the last minute. But we'll let Kurt DeMaagd, who is an engaging speaker, tell the story himself in this long (8:12) video."

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Just keep in mind that these are real people (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39521785)

I'm all for these sorts of projects, just keep in mind that the idealistic do-gooder mentality of "They're all going to use this wonderful internet for education and uplift" needs to be tempered with a realization that these are real people you're dealing with, not characters in some fairy tale narrative you've created in your own head. Understand that some of them are going to use it for education. But some are also going to use it to scam, surf porn, download shitty Nicolas Cage movies, and play games. So don't throw a hissy-fit and abandon the project the second you find out that you're dealing with real human beings who aren't always going to use your wonderful gift to do what YOU want them to.

Remember that these are real autonomous human beings just like you, and don't idealize them as some abstraction.

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522023)

My uncle just died and he has too much money. Please send me your bank account information so I can wire you. some of it.

Dearly Beloved (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522657)

My Dearly Beloved, It is by the grace of God that I received Christ,having known the truth,I had no choice than to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God for eternal life and in the sight of man for witness of Gods mercy and glory upon my life.

I am Mrs Melissa Pointer the wife of Mr Harry Pointer,my husband worked with the Chevron/Texaco in Kenya for twenty years before he died in the year 2001.We were married for ten years without a child.My Husband died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.Before his death we were both born again Christians.

Since his death I decided not to re-marry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against.When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of US $3.5M.(Three Million Five Hundred Thousand U.S.Dollars) with a Bank in Europe.Presently,this money is still with the Bank and the management just wrote me as the beneficiary to come forward to sign for the release of this money or rather issue a letter of authorization to somebody to receive it on my behalf if I can not come over.
Presently,I'm in a hospital in Kenya where I have been undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer.I have since lost my ability to talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few weeks to live.It is my last wish to see this money distributed to charity organizations any where in the World.Because relatives and friends have plundered so much of my wealth since my illness,I cannot live with the agony of entrusting this huge responsibility to any of them.

Please,I beg you in the name of God to help me Stand and collect the Funds from the Bank. I want a person that is God fearing that will use this money to fund churches,orphanages and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained.

The Bible made us to understand that blessed is the hand that giveth.I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians and I don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by unbelievers.I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner.Hence the reason for taking this bold decision.I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going.I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord.

Exodus {14 VS 14}says that the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace.I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my soundless voice and presence of my husband's relatives around me always.I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things are possible.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of my attorney who is in Europe as he will be the one to assist you in laying claims for this funds.

Your's Truly,
MRS.Melissa Pointer.


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39524411)

I wish for participation in your interests. How shall I proceed with the claim of the aforementioned funds?
Sincere Regards,
Michelle Obama

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (1)

pbscoop (2606071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522269)

They're going to use it for porn, then they're going to descend into a pit of despair as they realize how much their lives suck as they compare Africa to every single other place. ... This is actually sort of a cruel joke isn't it.

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522777)

Alternately, they'll see what kind of psychotic dolts populate the 'civilized' world and lose any interest.

Honestly, one look at a /. argument makes me think it would be a good idea to get into better shape and get into a roaring contest with a lion over that zebra that had my spear in its shoulder when the lionesses pounced. And there are many worse places than /.

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522967)

Alternately, they'll see what kind of psychotic dolts populate the 'civilized' world and lose any interest.

Yeah, dolts that act like things are so goddamn horrible in the rest of the world, where we have clean water and don't starve to death.

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (1)

Reservoir Penguin (611789) | more than 2 years ago | (#39539163)


Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (3, Informative)

kdemaagd (2607231) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523381)

We are pretty open and aware of their actual use. We (try to) block porn and a lot of video stuff because it chews up the bandwidth. Still, a vast majority of their use is not educational. They use it a lot for email, and facebook has really taken off in the last year. In many cases, they are just happy to be able to randomly surf the Internet while they charge their cell phones for free from our solar system. We do our best to provide educational resources and guide them towards productive uses of the technology while they are also using it for their own personal benefits.

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523609)

But in rural Michigan, they are just potential customers.

Re:Just keep in mind that these are real people (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 2 years ago | (#39526103)

download shitty Nicolas Cage movies,

LMAO! other year he plans to bring broadband internet to rural America.

Rural Michigan? (5, Insightful)

ewg (158266) | more than 2 years ago | (#39521837)

How about bringing broadband to rural Michigan?!

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39521945)

Yeh, just what I was thinking.

Start with Brighton.


Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522147)

I have it in Pinckney! Woo!

Re:Rural Michigan? (2)

quetwo (1203948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523541)

you really thing Brighton is rural? Try going north of Gaylord and you will quickly find entire counties that don't have basic telephone service, let alone cellular or broadband services...

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39524069)

Here here!

And it just gets worse the farther north you go. Heck, it was in the early 90s before we were off a party line, north of Petoskey.

Cell tower construction seems to have stalled too. If your carrier doesn't serve your area (we have two,) you are s.o.l.

Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522177)

Your Merrykin religion of 'Free Market Forces' takes care of that.

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522801)

Listen up OWS-crowd. You should know that "regulated" is contrary to "free".

Re:Rural Michigan? (2)

germany-runt (950755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522255)

There are PLENTY of places in the rural United States that would love better connectivity. But I guess those places are tied too tightly to the ISPs. They are doing it for a better quality of life while here in the States we worry too much about making our money back in a timely manner, ("What?! You mean it'll be 5 years until that infrastructure is paid for?!") so a lot of people really do miss out.

Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

saider (177166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522819)

To be fair, payback times for rural deployments can stretch into decades. Usually, county government uses a big-city contract to ensure the connection for the outlying areas. However many rural areas have no big city nearby to balance it out. If there is no payout for the company, then they cannot be expected to do it.

In these cases, a government owned company can deploy it using state and federal grants.

Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523309)

In these cases, a government owned company can deploy it using state and federal grants.

Except that those same service providers that refuse to service that market have, in other similar instances, and very likely would again, scream bloody murder about government's "unfair competition" and promptly tie up any such proposal in endless lawsuits.

Google for "municipal broadband lawsuits".


Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 2 years ago | (#39526261)

Then they get sued by the cable company

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522293)

How about doing it yourself [] ?
It's cheaper than you think.

Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522441)

How about bringing broadband to rural Michigan?!

Obviously, you have to ask the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522947)

Agreed. This is a clear-cut case of Treason against the US. Why hasn't he been convicted and hanged yet?

Re:Rural Michigan? (1)

kdemaagd (2607231) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523271)

How about bringing broadband to rural Michigan?!

We have stuff going on in rural Michigan too, but that's a different project.

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523705)

Such as?

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523825)

Yeah I'd be more interested in hearing about that than some shithole in Africa.

Re:Rural Michigan? (2, Informative)

quetwo (1203948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523521)

The TISM department at MSU has had a long-standing program to build out rural networks in Michigan. They've spawned a few companies (AllBand, to name one that I did some work with) that are CLECs or ILECs in the upper-lower peninsula. The biggest problem MSU/TISM runs into is that a lot of areas are already locked up by AT&T / Verizon / Centrytel / etc. who make sure that non-profits and psudo-government agencies can't provide internet access without a long, drawn-out legal fight.

Re:Rural Michigan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523759)

How About Rural AMERICA in general? Without 2 second latency or a 5 Gb/cap and 256K...

Good for Tanzania (1)

das3cr (780388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39521845)

But what about Rural Michigan ?

If they want to impress me they will improve their own back yards before pond skipping.

Re:Good for Tanzania (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522303)

I'm pretty sure impressing you isn't high on their list.

Re:Good for Tanzania (1)

das3cr (780388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522545)

True, but me being a pain in their ass wasn't a priority for me until this morning.

Kurt (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39521859)

>> Kurt (who was one of Slashdot's co-founders many years ago)

AKA Commander Fajita

Re:Kurt (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522389)

Back then he was just Ensign Fajita.

Ah Hah! (2)

DroolTwist (1357725) | more than 2 years ago | (#39521869)

So, this explains my increase in emails from African Monarchs who just need my bank account number and $1000 to buy the equipment needed to finish the trek to the vast fortunes they hid when being invaded by terrorists, which they will then deposit into my account after they get it!

Rural Africa? (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39521903)

What about rural America? Half the people in this country are still on fucking dial-up.

Re:Rural Africa? (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522151)

Which problem should be addressed first the access or the cost?

Re:Rural Africa? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523711)

Its not the cost, its the price. In rural Africa, the villagers are poor. So there's no point in attempting to extract more money from them. In rural Michigan, people are much wealthier. And they can afford to cough up more for such a service. So until they are willing to do so, they get no broadband.

Re:Rural Africa? (1)

OITLinebacker (1799770) | about 2 years ago | (#39525447)

Because Rural people are rich. While country folks here in the US might be wealthy by African Standards, they aren't all that much better off.

Re:Rural Africa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523183)

... fucking dial-up.

Old-skool pron.

Because,,, (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522025)

...ll the villagers will read the news on their iPad 2 while milking the goats and gathering honey.

Re:Because,,, (2)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522619)

And the news will tell them their local politician took a bribe so they'll end up with better leadership, closer international cooperation, and an extra goat next year. And that there's a bumper crop of corn in the US so they'll plant cotton this year. And that their child's cleft palate can be fixed by a local clinic almost free. Not that I don't think most of it will be porn but don't underestimate the power of information.

Re:Because,,, (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523429)

I don't know if I should laugh at your enthusiasm or cry because of your ignorance. Corrupt leaders that you talk about are not going to let locals read that kind of information on the internet. Hell, I doubt they will even let them have elections.

Access to crop reports in the US? Like that is going to help. To be able to make use of that data they would have to be able to farm competitively with other nations. Most of them are not even on the standards for farming in the 19th century, let alone the 21st. Most of them are still planting crops with sharp sticks.

Do gooders like this want to drag the africans out of the dark ages into the modern times by giving them technology. What they keep forgetting is this has been done in the past and it has always failed. You can't drag a stone age culture into the modern era with out it going through the steps in between.

Africas problems are africans problems. Let them sort it out.

Re:Because,,, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39524483)

You can't drag a stone age culture into the modern era with out it going through the steps in between.

Which apparently are enslaving them, putting them to work in plantations for generations, denying them civil rights, and finally having them top the charts for violent crime, bastard children, drug abuse, illiteracy, and underachievement while we have "Black History Month" and affirmative action and such to kiss their asses and make them feel better about themselves and their lack of achievement. Just like the schools that give "participation trophies" to kids who play soccer and lose badly, because self esteem is all that matters even if it has no basis. Brilliant!

Re:Because,,, (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 2 years ago | (#39525247)

Sir, you are well named.

My South African friend was sure a particularly evil politician would stay in power in an election we were looking at. He was voted out in a landslide partly because of informed voters. (UN control of voting booths helped a lot too.)

African farmers are increasingly able to make use of modern farming methods. This too is due to the information age. B2B sales of farming equipment and open markets, global competition, and training via the internet have all played their part.

Technology failed to help in the past because it was being wielded by imperialists [] with agendas. Things [] in Africa [] are [] getting [] better [] and will keep getting better.

Helps brings! (0)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522033)

He's not an English Language professor, anyway!

Re:Helps brings! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39532605)

They got the typo fixed, dude!

I can see it now. (1)

UberJugend (2519392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522079)

Picture a staving subsistence farmer holding one end of an Ethernet cable wondering WTH he is supposed to do with that. This will feed and clothe my family how?

Re:I can see it now. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#39525461)

Picture a staving subsistence farmer holding one end of an Ethernet cable wondering WTH he is supposed to do with that. This will feed and clothe my family how?

Yeah, what are those savages going to do with better access to information? How are they going to plug into the knowledge economy? They don't have towns and cities in Africa, they only live in mud huts and small settlements. Those African doctors, lawyers, teachers and stuff? They don't exist, too busy eking out a living as subsistence farmers. It's white people working for charities who do all the clever work, you wouldn't expect anyone with dark skin to be able to do anything that requires a bit of intelligence, would you?

Mod parent troll please.

Re:I can see it now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39531643)

Mod parent troll please.

Actually I modded *you* Troll.

Why? Because I am tired of bed-wetting liberals (and those who think like them) such as you who think EVERYTHING that ANYONE says is racism. I am tired of the way you jump to that conclusion based on flimsy evidence or no evidence at all. I am sick of how you never give anyone the benefit of doubt.

How do you know GP wasn't merely saying that a lot of people who happen to live in Africa are very poor and might not know where their next meal is going to come from, that when you are just trying to survive in a cruel environment marked by warlords, corruption, much starvation, and little infrastructure compared to Western nations, maybe just maybe you have more immediate needs than accessing Google? The answer - you don't know that.

You just took it upon yourself to assume a racist angle when there was no evidence of it whatsoever. GP may in fact have been quite sympathetic to the plight of poor people who live in horrible conditions that the rest of the world, if we had any conscience or sense of humanity, would be doing so much more for them.

For that matter, how do you know GP is not himself black, or even living in one of the more pleasant parts of the African continent? You don't. You assumed the worst with no reason, no evidence.

You, sir, are troll. Get off your high horse. It's time the poor beast had a feedbag.

Re:I can see it now. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553257)

As soon as I see the word "liberal" used as a term of abuse I know I'm talking to a Fox-News-watching intellectually challenged fuck who doesn't know his ass from his elbow.

GP was plugging into the tired old stereotype about black mucksavages living in mud huts and assuming that all Africans have no use for technology, as if they don't have cities, professions, highways, or any of the other trappings of civilization. It's a misinformed stereotype and I'm sick listening to it.

Now scuttle off and crawl back into your hole, you despicable, half-educated, creationist moron.

What about rural Michigan?!??!? (3, Informative)

BenJeremy (181303) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522139)

Geez, we still don't have broadband in large parts of Michigan. Dialup is still a reality, not a bad memory (as it should be) for many people - some of whom are nestled within the populous southeastern quarter of the lower peninsula.

Re:What about rural Michigan?!??!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522999)

No kidding. I bought a place 15 minutes south of st. joe and there are no broadband options other than tethering from my 3g. If Michigan is serious about encouraging more tourism to supplement manufacturing then they need to beef up that network now.

Re:What about rural Michigan?!??!? (1)

quetwo (1203948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523573)

You can thank your local and state governments for giving into the Telcos for that one. Why invest in an area when you can just politic the PUC or the local governments to allow you to not honor your word, or ignore entire areas of your exclusive footprint...

Somalia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522165)

Any idea when this will be available in Somalia? That country is listed as "unknown" copyright term. Even Eritrea might be interesting.
It might be interesting to set up a website there...

Africa are fagets (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522169)

Africa are fagets. Why we need them pollute our internets? The horror. Keep them fagets off the internets.

As much as its great to bring technology to... (1, Interesting)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522219)

areas like this, I think they have their priorities wrong. I have been to 3rd world countries and the last thing the people there care about is internet access and a computer. They care about finding a job, getting food and feeding their families. Even if they did implement the technology, that's the easiest part, maintaining and keeping it running for years or even decades is the largest issue.

Re:As much as its great to bring technology to... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522409)

wouldn't maintaining and keeping it running create jobs?

Re:As much as its great to bring technology to... (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522503)

Maybe but I doubt the demand is there since those people work from dusk till dawn in the fields and rarely have time to look at a machine. On their free time they socialize with each other (their neighbors, relatives, whomever) they won't be spending time at a computer.

Re:As much as its great to bring technology to... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522737)

So did we.

Re:As much as its great to bring technology to... (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523691)

Please go to one of these countries instead of making ignorant remarks. They need basic needs that we here take advantage every single day.

Re:As much as its great to bring technology to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522731)

Paid for by whom? For the love of Pete, these people can't afford food and clean water. You think there will suddenly be a market for a luxury disposable income service just because someone offers it? Not much on supply side economics are you champ?

Re:As much as its great to bring technology to... (0)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523163)

Oh my god, people just stop. We need to let these people bring themselves into the 19th century before we drag them into the 21st. Africa doesn't need another save the africans project with useless technology. Yes, its useless to them unless they are nigerian scammers or something. What they need is to be left alone to work out their problems. Basic education and teaching them that shooting each other is not the best answers to their problems.

Why didn't Africans do it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522227)

It's great and all that this guy brought broadband to Tanzania , but why didn't Tanzanians do it?

Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39522271)

How about clean water? Antibiotics? Soap even? Internet? Really? I guess they can read how we think they should go about digging a well with tools they don't have or something. Having spent a lot of time in 3rd world countries (living in amongst the locals as a local) I am now reminded why people such as Kurt here are the subject of much fun-making.

Transcript (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#39522721)

Title: MSU professor Kurt [DeMaagd] Helps bring Broadband Internet to Rural Africa
Description: Kurt (who was one of Slashdot's co-founders many years ago) believes his students get as much out of the broadband project as the people in Tanzania who are its primary beneficiaries.

[00:00] <TITLE>
The SlashdotTV logo bar with "Bringing broadband Internet to Rural Tanzania" appears in the bottom over a still image from the interview with Professor Kurt DeMaagd. The backdrop is a white room with a "2001: a space odyssey" poster.

[00:04] <TITLE>
The view fades to that of Robert Rozeboom in front of the "2001: a space odyssey" poster with the SlashdotTV logo bar reading "Robert Rozeboom (samzenpus on Slashdot)

[00:04] Robert>
In addition to perfecting his ping pong game, Professort Kurt DeMaagd spends a lot of his time working on initiatives that bring broadband to rural communities in developing nations.
Today we'll be talking to him about his work in Africa.

[00:16] <TITLE>
The view fades back Professor Kurt DeMaagd with the SlashdotTV logo bar reading "MSU Professor Kurt DeMaagd"

[00:14] Kurt>
I am one of the faculty leads in a project where we have students setting up broadband connections in rural Tanzania.

[00:25] Robert>
How did you get interested in doing that in Africa?

[00:28] Kurt>
Well I've done other research work on the economic impacts of broadband in various countries, and most of it tends to be working with, sort of, country-level economic indicators.
There seems to be a big gap between what these country-level indicators can study and the actual on-the-ground realities.
So we thought "Well, let's do a project that actually gets in touch with the people."
In part of doing that we thought "Well, maybe we can also blend this with a student project, and get students to actually go out and do some of the roll-out, get some real world experience in a rather challenging environment."

[01:05] Kurt>
The biggest technical challenge actually is not the original, I guess, start-up technical challenges, but the ongoing support.
So we can come in with our teams, get everything set up, running perfectly and go back home, and a week later things are broken.
So the tech challenge is not so much identifying what's going wrong and how to fix it, but how do we actually find the long-term ongoing support working with community members there - so we started partnering with, for example, the University of Dodoma, we have people nearby our schools that we work with who are somewhat trained in the technology so that we can provide the support there.
But most the stuff is not a brand new technology that we're developing, but often times adapted the technology just for the individual local needs.

[01:53] Robert>
So the biggest problem really is getting the helpdesk.

[01:57] Kurt>
*laughs* exactly - the classic challenge!
We can go in and fix it, but you know I don't want to fly to Tanzania every week when somebody has problems.

[02:03] Robert>
Are you training people specifically for that?
Part of the project?

[02:07] Kurt>
Yeah, exactly.
Part of it is identifying people there who have experience.
So, for example, there are plenty of people there who kind of bill themselves as an electrician.
But finding the electrician who can competently work on our solar charging systems and not create, you know, gigantic health and fire hazards and all that kind of stuff is a much bigger problem.
So, finding first the most competent person, then also working with them in terms of, you know, good quality workmanship is quite a bit of a challenge.

[02:37] Robert>
What sort of challenges do you find from the government there?

[02:42] Kurt>
That was really - you know, when I said that we've been working there about 6 years with only 4 years of really project work, the first two years were a lot of, sort of, government work relationship building things like that.
We actually chose Tanzania because Michigan State University has been working in Tanzania on various other projects for decades, so there were existing connections there already.
The slightly weirder part that you have to negotiate is you need both local and central government support.
You have to both the top-down stuff going with ministry officials and all that sort of stuff and get the approvals at that level, but you're also gonna have to turn around and to the bottom-up work to get the support of the local community - you can't just start in one direction and say "Oh, well the central ministry said you have to cooperate."
That's, you know, it's a little bit of a political challenge to negotiate around that.

[03:35] Kurt>
Once we're in the area, though, we don't tend to have any problems with harassing government agents or anything like that.
There's a lot of support for the project, everybody's happy to see it succeed.
So, once we get that initial negotiation we haven't had much problems around regulations.

[03:51] Robert>
Do you find it more difficult from the top down or from the bottom up?

[03:55] Kurt>
You know, it's just slightly different.
The top-down we had more the MSU pre-established connections, the bottom-up we had to develop more connections to individual site [unintelligible] things like that, so it probably took more time to do the bottom-up, but it's just, you know, two different problems.

[04:15] Robert>
Once this gets up and running, do you see like low-end tech jobs moving to Africa?
Will Africa, in 20 years, be the new call center Mekka for the world?

[04:25] Kurt>
There is an interesting push now to start doing these low-end tech projects and stuff like that - especially trying to tap into the outsourcing market.
There's not going to be, at least in the near future, the mega-organizations that, say, have popped up in India to handle outsourcing.
But there's a lot of sort of micro-entrepreneurship idea, where supposedly if you can get access - if you can buy a computer and a mobile broadband modem, plug that into your computer, you can do your small little projects and then they start aggregating all these together.
That's at least what a lot of people say the near-term future's going to be.
We don't know what the long-term picture's going to be, but there's a lot of interest in the potential for economic growth.

[05:14] Robert>
How much longer do you think you'll be doing this?

[05:17] Kurt>
Well, hopefully we can keep on going - it depends on the money, as always.
A lot of it.. you know, we've got it barely sustainable now, it does require some sort of external subsidies from a corporate sponsor, or the university has been sponsoring, things like that.
But we've had no shortage of interest from students to go out there, we've had no shortage of interest from partners on the ground there in Tanzania.
Certainly some day the overall market forces will hopefully take over and broadband will be provided without folks like us coming in and doing it but that's at least, you know, I betcha that's a decade away at least.

[05:56] <TITLE>
A title card with "The Tanzanians aren't the only ones who benefit" fades in and out of view.

[05:59] Kurt>
It's been a great project for our students, you know, nothing tests a student's skills like throwing them into the middle of Tanzania and saying "alright, figure this out, you've got..."

[06:04] Robert> ...and try to hook a solar panel up to...

[06:11] Kurt>
*laughing* Exactly!
When you don't have the internet yet, because you don't have power for it yet, you can't just hop on the internet to check out the specs on the solar panel and hook it up(!)
So it's really interesting - it takes us.. there is a medium-size city about 2.5 hours away from us called Arusha and you can go to a normal-ish hardware store, but even then it's not like you just hop online and have Newegg next day you the part you forgot or something like that.

[06:36] Kurt>
It's kind of interesting to see how much more the students realize [they] have to plan everything and be prepared as opposed to just kind of show up, and adapt that way.

[06:48] Robert>
How hard is it getting the materials you need?

[06:53] Kurt>
Some stuff we have to bring with us.

[06:54] Kurt>
Ironically, our #1 material challenge has been conduit for running the cabling; because the mice love to chew on all of our cables.
That was one of our earliest problems.
Even if you just try doing rat poison on the cabling or something like that, they nibble on it and one goes away and maybe dies, and then another one comes and nibbles in the same spot, and eventually they get through.
So we have to buy lots and lots of conduit.
But that's not actually very accessible there - especially flexible conduit.
The other thing we ran into with conduit is the... they had a lot of this blue rigid conduit.
It was a very pretty color blue and at one point some locals or whatever thought "ah, this would be nice for making trinkets."
So they ripped up all of our conduit, cut off all of our cable, so they could get the conduit off.
And, of course, "Oh, great, you knocked out the internet for the school so you could make trinkets(!)".
So every now and then there's a misalignment between the value of our systems.

[07:53] Robert>
That's great.

[07:54] Kurt>
*laughing* Yeah - so that was a problem.
But yeah, conduit's a huge problem.

[07:77] Robert>
Well at least you provided bling before, you know [...]

[08:00] Kurt>
*laughing* Exactly!

[08:01] Robert>
[...] to the community!

[08:02] Kurt>
*laughing* Exactly, and it's pretty blue bling!

[08:04] <TITLE>
Robert & Kurt laugh as the SlasdotTV logo bar with "Bringing broadband Internet to Rural Tanzania" faded into view.


Bonus feature!

[06:35] <TITLE>
A phone notification sound is audible.

[06:54] <TITLE>
Robert, visible in the reflection of the poster frame, pulls his phone from his pocket and checks its screen, ousting himself as the man who didn't silence his phone before an interview.

Since when should this be a priority in Africa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523095)

Well they may not have consistent food, water, or healthcare, but by golly we'll give them facebook!

The funny part... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39523369)

He can bring broadband to rural Africa, but he cant bring broadband to rural Michigan. Most of Michigan has ZERO broadband in the rural areas.

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523555)

What a waste of time and money.

Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523803)

Now they just need clean water and medicine

the money trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523817)

I'm assuming MSU is not footing the bills for the actual equipment.
Perhaps some kudos should go to the financiers here.

Figuring out Customer Support should be the START! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39523867)

I spend time each year in rural Uganda observing grass roots projects in which locals decide WHAT they need and HOW they want to ORGANIZE themselves to fill those needs. Internet access is VERY expensive in much of rural Africa. The model of having western experts parachute in to bring technical resources and expertise and then having everything break almost immediately is a very well-known symptom of "top down" projects. What if the focus of the student engagement project were shifted to developing training materials and curriculum for the local, rural vocational schools, as well as business planning and micro-loans for entrepreneurs who want to get into this business? The organization I work with in Uganda, Uganda Rural Training and Development ( has such a vocational school. They teach men and women how to be solar technicians and they provide training in Internet and Computer skills. Nevertheless, the cost in Uganda of accessing the Internet is still quite prohibitive because, other than the mobile suppliers, there isn't sufficient competition and volume to attract multiple ISPs.

priorities (1)

fluffythedestroyer (2586259) | about 2 years ago | (#39524045)

Who cares about food when you got porn..I mean Internet.

Port 25 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39524941)

Please block all outbound connections to port 25.

What about Rural Indiana? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39525157)

Why Africa? We can't even get reliable broadband to rural areas in Indiana!

Re:What about Rural Indiana? (1)

soliter (1672520) | about 2 years ago | (#39530071)

Post to undo moderation

This is really good news... (1)

umask077 (122989) | about 2 years ago | (#39525251)

This is a really good ste., All those poor women in Nigeria will have a chance to emails to rest of the world to help with there ransom.

Not going to work... (1)

enaso1970 (759924) | about 2 years ago | (#39525407)

It's a great buzz idea. I wish for our work (NGO) there that this could be a viable solution to the "last 100km problem." But...the solution isn't scalable in any significant way (cost, training, support) and while he has identified the need for support as the key factor, I didn't see a viable solution. That's why there are so many people interested in cellular networks and tools - check out mPESA in Kenya - 13 million people sending > $400million per month using SMS micropayments. Now there's a solution that was well thought out and that scaled well.

Attention /. know-it-alls (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about 2 years ago | (#39525577)

Ever heard of two countries called China and India? Among the most powerful growing economies in the world today? Billions of people lifted out of poverty and beggary? Manufacturing industry beefed up to the point where the west can't compete? Wanna know how they did it? With education. Better information. Embracing new technology. Industrial policy and a skilled workforce. They didn't do it with social programs. Enough of the "b-b-b-but they need to get running water and healthcare and food first" crap. Has it ever crossed your mind that better access to information will help them to farm better? Might help them to learn better practices for plumbing? Might help them to learn what policies work, what don't, and how to vote accordingly? Might help them to learn which of their politicians are corrupt and which are worth voting for?

I find it interesting that the /. groupthink regarding the developing world says "stop investing in technology and business, you should instigate social programs first", but concerning the western world it's "government-run social programs are evil, we should be concentrating on making life easier for business first, the rest will follow." Double standard much?

You make me sick the whole bloody lot of ya.

Re:Attention /. know-it-alls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39532105)

You're way the fuck wrong. I'm going on my 3rd year in China. Billions lifted? A majority of China's 1.3 billions STILL live a life of poverty and beggary, you ignorant prick. Better education, better technology? Again, wrong, and I'm sure your lazy ass hasn't actually gone out and met any of these people. They aren't quite as sharp as you think. It's cheap labor, dickweed. A massive population but not a massive job market.

Ha ha ha, you crack me up. All high and mighty, proud of yourself, thinking you're special because you have the facts, when IN FACT, you don't. Stupid mother fuckers like you will always be wrong. Why? Because, you never see the whole pictures, never look at all the angles, never see all the sides.

Re:Attention /. know-it-alls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39532245)

Speaking of the whole picture, I just wish we're not borrowing so much money from these Chinese beggars.

Re:Attention /. know-it-alls (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553201)

Away and shite you AC asshole. The Chinese and Indians are way the fuck better off than they were 20 years ago and that's a solid indisputable fact.

think of the poor Foxconn worker bees!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39528043)

The Chinese clearly need more help than the Africans, because every other story here on /. is trying to convince the brain-dead that they need more western style "guidance" and assistance.
So what the fuck?

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39531001)

maybe they can learn how to not be the worlds largest bum population

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>