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Solar Wi-Fi To Bring Net to Developing Countries

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the let-the-sun-shine-in dept.

162

JLavezzo writes "TreeHugger.com has an article today on a new wifi development organization: MIT and the UN have teamed up to provide kids living in the world's least developed nations $100 laptops, their 2 watts of juice provided by hand or foot crank. Cool, but - and this was one of Bill Gates' criticisms - what's a computer without internet access? Enter Green Wi-Fi, a non-profit that seeks to provide 'last mile internet access with nothing more than a single broadband internet connection, rooftops and the sun.' Their wi-fi access nodes, which consist of a small solar panel, a heavy-duty battery, and a router, can be linked together to extend one internet connection into a larger network. The two guys who started the company - Bruce Baikie and Marc Pomerleau - happen to be veterans of Sun Microsystems. Deployment is set to start in India at the end of this summer."

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162 comments

Think of the possibilities! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15843854)

Now not only can citizens of impoverished countries starve due to gross mismanagement of funds by their governments (who are themselves living very well off of foreign aid intended for the citizens) but they can IM each other about who has more flies.

Re:Think of the possibilities! (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843922)

or maybe they can im each other about the fact that a food drop is going down @ #location and they maybe could walk there and pick up a box/bag of food
or maybe get online and find a way to make a solar still (boil water and get it to condense correctly and any water is pure water)

to live well you need to feed
mind ---- we are here
body --- this needs work and some fat punks to be Lion Food
"soul" ---- this is the work of "The Church"
so in your case unless you are planning on loading a C130 with food and flying out yourself* Sit Down and SHADUP

(*or paying somebody to do this)

Cosmology (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844111)

1. The metaphysical study of the origin and the nature of the universe.
In my cosmology, I can't find a distinction between mind and soul in the fashion that you do.

Re:Cosmology (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844822)

Nor is there a clear division between mind and body, dear hackwrench. But we can make provisional distinctions to talk about things such as bodies, minds, souls, spoons.

Oh, by the way, I think you'd have a stronger comment if you tried it like this:

In my cosmology, I can't find a distinction between mind and soul in the fashion that you do, you insensitive clod!!

Better, don't you think?

Re:Think of the possibilities! (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844314)

Therefore, people who don't go to church can not live well. That's so obviously true! You win the troll award!

Re:Think of the possibilities! (2, Funny)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844833)

No, it's people that don't go to "the Church". So you have to make sure you go to the right one, or you're totally screwed. You might as well sleep in on Sunday and spend the rest of the day fornicating and taking drugs, since you'll be going to hell anyway.

P.S. I, and only I, can tell you which Church is the right one, but you'll have to sign up for my newsletter first, before I deem you worthy of such knowledge.

Re:Think of the possibilities! (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844916)

In many such communities, people already communicate with each other quite well: the members of many villages are in mutual communication far more than, say, the residents of a typical urban flat or condo.

The law of unintended consequences may come into play: electronic communications technologies can erode social/cultural practices that already exist. Is it really an improvement that a few people IM each other the location of a "food drop" (or, more accurately, a food distribution site - though this is not a very common scenario) rather than having a people congregate and discuss it verbally? Wouldn't, perhaps, a kiosk/internet cafe model fit into the use patterns of people in remote villages better?

the flies will come through the tubes! (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843965)

Now not only can citizens of impoverished countries starve due to gross mismanagement of funds by their governments (who are themselves living very well off of foreign aid intended for the citizens) but they can IM each other about who has more flies.

Not exactly. The number of flies in each location will stabilize, as the flies travel through the series of tubes that make up the internet. Don't get me wrong: the internet is not a truck. So don't even think that it is.

Re:the flies will come through the tubes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844159)

June 28th, 2006 called, and they want their joke back. Thanks.

Re:the flies will come through the tubes! (1)

hawfizzle (968007) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844546)

this post is much funnier than the original post, which is really not funny.

Re:the flies will come through the tubes! (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844841)

Not only that, but if the people are starving (and what people outside of the U.S., Europe, and a couple of Asian Nations aren't), then the files will be skinnier and will move thru the tubes more easily. Thus, file equilibrium through T2T file sharing will happen quicker and with a lot less lube.

I was thinking the same thing (0)

Ogemaniac (841129) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844207)

There are literally billions of people without access to clean water, a secure food supply, basic medicine, reasonable security, etc.

A $100 dollars for a laptop could provide medical care for a family of four for a year in many third-world countries. Which would you rather have?

Re:I was thinking the same thing (4, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844309)

"A $100 dollars for a laptop could provide medical care for a family of four for a year in many third-world countries. Which would you rather have?"

Both. Now quit offering these simplistic and narrow-minded false alternatives.

Did it ever occur to you that in order to deliver aid, people might need communications capability? Or that the vast majority of people are not dying of being poor, they're living with it. This means that if they're going to improve their lot - and everyone on the face of this earth has that right - they might need access to information in order to do so?

Re:I was thinking the same thing (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844336)

If laptops could teach some of them how to run an economy and a government, then this is a much better option in the long run.

In countries where the entire economy and government has failed, education is a much more important charity than food or medicine.

Re:I was thinking the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844635)

is this really a binary opposition? Are you just begging to deconstructed [wikipedia.org] here?

Re:I was thinking the same thing (4, Insightful)

70Bang (805280) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844752)

Read everything before mod-ding me down -- there's some germane material which won't make the cut-off...

How do you propose the family of four get medical care for a year be distributed (and used by the proper recipients)?

You have control of the resources before it reaches TPTB (The Powers That Be). Once it's there, however, all bets are off.

Here's an example:

You see people panhandling for money. Offer to take them in the nearest restaurant. Give management enough money...with the understanding it can only be used for the person in question and anything left over goes in the tip jar. The person you're helping is polite (if you're lucky) but refuses.

Does this mean:

1) They aren't hungry and anticipate having enough the next time he's hungy?
2) you've determined the reason they need the money is to buy some MD2020 (it's a wine -- Mad Dog 20/20 - you're better off to drink battery acid. I cannot imagine a hangover on it. Find some at a cheap-o liquor store try a little, and pitch it - it's an experiment -- not unlike a deep-friend twinkie or Snickers bar at a state fair. I buy whatever is new that year for a one-bite taste by tearing it off, passing the rest off to anyone else wanting a taste. If you are clueless about these deep-fried foods, consider yourself fortunate) or some other booze (or drug)?
3) they need the money for something else - something positive? e.g., sick kid to the clinic?

4) they really rake in the $$$ asking for money and have no reason to find a job.

5) sitting there kills time vs. sitting in the library and doing nothing.

6) ???

You've got the money in hand. How do you decide how it's distributed and how much to give them? (I have a personal pattern|policy, but we won't worry about that right now)

If you hand over the the funds, you have a good chance of believing it will be diverted. That's when the Time photo of Bono means squat. "Forgive the countries which can't pay their debts. It's crippling them trying to keep up." (read that: we're loan sharks) We clear the slate, they have nothing. We give them money, it goes the same place all of the other money has gone. Bono goes oh-fer by asking us to wipe the debts again. Fortunately, none of his money was diverted and he can continue to wear kool-yellow glasses.

If we give them "clean water, a secure food supply, basic medicine, reasonable security...for a year", how do you prevent the hard goods from being sold to another group|country for $$$ or exchanged in some other fashion? Reasonable security? Right now, we're in a bad spot right now [1] -- although we have now have an exit policy [2] and have to intervene in how many other companies using a fleet of UN black helicopters? If it's a UN and not US issue, there's plenty of representation from the countries who are robbing their people blind and have already diverted all of the funds. I hear a One World Order being proposed by someone coming in from the side door.

Lots of fine wishes, but it's not going to happen in the real world. Anyone for a video game? World Conquest & Domination? Wait. Something near to that was in Never Say Never Again.
__________________
[1] A man goes to hell and is greeted by Satan who explains the rules: "I'm going to walk you through a long hallway of rooms. You'll be able to look inside and determine if you want to stay there for eternity [or not]. If you choose to pass but find everything after it is worse, you cannot return. Again, once you pass, you cannot return." They go to the first room and all of the surfaces are so hot people are doing everything they can to avoid contact - jumping off of the floor, wall, taking turns standing on each other, etc. "I'll pass. There's no way I could handle that for eternity." "Fine. But you cannot return if everything else is worse." They go to room #2. Everything must be very cold because the vapor from everyone's breath can be seen in the air and everyone is doing everything they can to stay warm, but are worn out as the shuddering wears them out as well. "I don't think I can do that for eternity, either." "That's fine, but you cannot return." They go to the third room. Everyone is standing in knee-deep sh%t, a full coffee cup in hand, seemingly a serene life which doesn't look too bad compared to what he's seen. "Okay, I'll pick this room." "So be it. You'll spend eternity here." About the time Satan opens the room, a voice over a loudspeaker booms, "Okay, everyone, the coffee break is over. Back on your heads." I almost wrote "break" or "coffee break" in-text, but that would have spoiled the joke, wouldn't it?
[2] Official Bush Exit Policy: January 20, 2009.

Re:Think of the possibilities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844240)

Jesus fucking christ... this isn't funny. This is old.

Re:Think of the possibilities! (4, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844288)

"Now not only can citizens of impoverished countries starve due to gross mismanagement of funds by their governments (who are themselves living very well off of foreign aid intended for the citizens) but they can IM each other about who has more flies."

I know you think you're being darkly humourous (or maybe just fasionably cynical - it's hard to tell), but there's a bit of truth in what you say.

I work on a project whose aim is very directly pointed at improving communications so that people in rural areas can actually find out just how bad things are in the capital. One of the biggest problems we face here in terms of political reform is the fact that there's absolutely no follow-up, no accountability for elected officials. They buy votes with a few pots and pans and bags of rice, then disappear for four years. But if their villagers actually knew just how much money they were making (and wasting on their cronies), there would be hell to pay.

So if someone with family in the city were to receive news (including, for example, photos of the MP in his fancy new car), it would be a lot harder for him to lie to them the next time around.

It's not a complete solution, by any means. We only need to look at the state of politics in our own so-called developed countries for evidence. But it's a good start, and a vast improvement on the utter lack of communications capacity that most places in the world have to deal with today.

Re:Think of the possibilities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844862)

just imagine - if it is this bad in the usa, it must be even worse in developing countries!

you were talking baout the usa, right? right?

Re:Think of the possibilities! (4, Interesting)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844949)

I know a guy in Nepal working as a teacher.

In the village where he teaches, a year or two back they got hold of a single mobile phone.

There's no electricity in the village. Nor is there mobile-phone coverage. Nevertheless, it has paid for itself a thousand times over.

It goes like this.

They grow and sell various farm-products. They sell most of their stuff on a market 4 hours walk away. It's possible to recharge the mobile-phone at the market. There's a spot with mobile-phone coverage half an hours walk from the village.

End effect ? The villagers know the prices at the market, what is in high demand and what has oversupply so the prices are low. This enables them to make more intelligent choices about what to bring to the market at which times.

End effect ? The market is better supplied. They are better paid.

Knowledge is power.

Sounds good, but... (2, Insightful)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843859)

If they already have problems with power, etc., how will they get a broadband Internet connection? I guess you could use WDS or something to extend the range, but I don't think that's a very practical solution.

Re:Sounds good, but... (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843885)

I'd rather have a connection for the x hours a day when I DO have power (which runs all the other stuff too) than no connection at all.

It doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing.

Re:Sounds good, but... (1)

Ethan Allison (904983) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843987)

Solar-powered satellites?

Re:Sounds good, but... (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843994)

Hmm, I hadn't though of that. One of these Green Wifi things plus a solar-powered satellite transceiver might be able solve the broadband problem.

Re:Sounds good, but... (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844247)

i'd like to get me one of these for my home :)

Re:Sounds good, but... (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844352)

I'm sure MIT and the UN never thought of that! If only MIT had top minds like yours to tell them they aren't being practical...

So (0)

Brieeyebarr (938678) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843865)

They're jusr repeaters that run on solar energy ...

Re:So (3, Insightful)

SIGALRM (784769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843936)

They're jusr repeaters that run on solar energy ...
True, but it's beauty is it's simplicity. Remember Teledesic [teledesic.com] ? A low-earth-orbital (LEO) sattelite system capable of bringing internet access to the world through "spread-slotted Aloha" algorithms, etc. Even McCaw, Gates and al-Talwaleed's big money couldn't produce results, and Teledesic is (by all accounts) a dead idea.

So, I tend to like seeing these "brick-and-mortar"--and workable--solutions actually come to market.

Re:So (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844638)

X5O!P%@AP[4\PZX54(P^)7CC)7}$EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIV IR US-TEST-FILE!$H+H*
A bit off topic, but that won't trigger anything, since that sig must be the beginning of the a file, not in the middle or at the end.

It's a Sunny day (2, Interesting)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843866)

What's with people leaving Sun Microsystems & starting theese great projects to bring people & information together ?

Didn't someone on the top of Googles command chain come from Sun ?

Sun may produce some seemingly "bloated" stuff, but they damn sure produce some fine people also.

Re:It's a Sunny day (1)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844186)

It looks more like they are expelling some fine people and keeping only schwartz and gosling to close the show.

Re:It's a Sunny day (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844253)

Whatever floats your boat.

Justice at last!!! (5, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843871)

Now Indians will have to deal with Indian tech support.

Re:Justice at last!!! (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844799)

Justice would be to force them to deal with an American who hardly speaks their language and whose only reference to solar-powered Wi-Fi is a Slashdot article.

Re:Justice at last!!! (1)

pimpkracker69 (857767) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844877)

Well played, sir. Kudos to you:)

have they been to tthe 'least developed nations'? (4, Informative)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843888)

Its hard to believe that anyone who had actually visited some of the least developed countries could post something about computers and WiFi to help them out. When I was in Malawi for example, the people didn't know what electricity was. There was only one water spigot in the entire village, at the whitemans church. The only piece of technology they could recognize was my wristwatch, which they were in awe over. My $1000 digital camera? They couldn't even 'see' it: they had no reference as to what it was, might was well have been a rock.
They dont even have shoes. These people's most valuable posessions are sticks. I'm not kidding. Sticks are fuel for cookfires. They walk all day with a hundred pound of sticks on their back, with no shoes, no roads.

Now, these people cant read either. Can you not see how pretentious it is to expect them to value a laptop with WiFi when they are starving and can't read?
Get them some shoes first. That will help them a lot more.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (5, Informative)

Canadian_Daemon (642176) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843909)

please refer to any of the past OLPC post. These are not countries in extreme poverty. They have an infrastructure in plance. The projects are designed to break the cycle of poverty. Unless you teach these people to survive in a 21st century workplace, you can give them all the aid you want and it will not help. I repeat, BREAK THE CYCLE OF POVERTY, and the programs are not designed for countries with extreme poverty, but ones with an infrastructure in place

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

MrWhitefolkz (751859) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844262)

A little off topic, but what happens when the RIAA and MPAA start noticing these countries downloading stuff that shouldn't be. Are they going to go after the people and try to do what they do here or are they going to turn a blind eye to avoid a potential public relations problem? Is there going to be a filter? I'd be interested to see how all of that plays out when everything is all said and done in their new 21st century world.

[Bad analogy] I'm studying for algorithms.. (1)

Neoncow (802085) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844472)

Having the RIAA sue people in developing nations is like proving P=NP. Seriously.

It would be like the definitative proof that RIAA has no morals.

(I'm hoping that someone out there gets this)

Re:[Bad analogy] I'm studying for algorithms.. (1)

Neoncow (802085) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844519)

A little bit of clarity..

Proving P=NP would demonstrate to mathematicians that some of the hardest problems in computer science can be solved in a resonable amount of time. It would be a revolution in complexity theory, because it would prompt new research into complexity theory (or something like that)

The RIAA suing people in developing nations would demonstrate that they are pure evil. It would be a revolution in the music industry, because it would prompt new publicity against the RIAA's tactics.

Anyway.. Back to studying *sigh*

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (2, Insightful)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843945)

"One laptop per kid" isn't necessary. Even if there's only a single connected computer in the whole village, it will vastly expand their horizons.

One of the great tragedies of poor countries is that a little knowledge could help them make much better use of their limited resources. If I couldn't afford a pair of shoes, I'd google for information about making some... if I had access to the Net.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844649)

If I couldn't afford a pair of shoes, I'd google for information about making some... if I had access to the Net.

In traditional societies, crafts such as shoemaking are taught to apprentices willing to dedicate several years to the task.

Your shortcut assumes, in rough order:

That the man without shoes is in good health, with no relevant physical or mental disabilites.

That he has the free time to master a skilled trade. That he is computer-literate.

That the craft can be mastered without hands-on instruction. "They laughed when I sat down at the piano..."

That he can afford the necessary tools and materials.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844937)

There's also the question of network effects: the shoes that an African villager might learn how to make on the internet might not be the ones most appropriate to his environment, and the reliance on the laptop could, in fact, reduce the amount of local cultural transfer by which he could actually learn how to make shoes from a neighbor.

I think that technology can be helpful and integrated well: it's just that the very OLPC model is so wrapped up in a myopic view of culture and society, that I think it is at best destined to fail, at worst could cause more harm than good.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

Almahtar (991773) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843951)

The key to advancement is education. Perhaps rather than spending $100 to feed a person for a few months they're spending $100 to teach them how to help themselves. I understand that some areas are too underdeveloped for this to be helpful, but in others this is exactly what they need.

Knowlege is power. I want to see shoes on their feet and food in their stomachs too, but an intermediate step - education - could have a much longer lasting and widespread benefit.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (3, Insightful)

apflwr3 (974301) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843993)

I find it hard to believe that you made it to a country as remote as Malawi without travelling through areas that had roads, buildings, plumbing and power-- but the inhabitants live in such poverty that access to a computer is an impossible dream and the best job they could hope for is a Nike sweatshop. This program is for them-- the parts of the "Third World" that are 50 years behind, not 500.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844139)

Not all nations are so technologically deficient. Some nations, like the Philippines or various Eastern European nations, have some semblance of a modern industrialized nation, but are still, for the most part, extremely impoverished. Projects like this are most important for such nations.

Solar Cooking (3, Informative)

Shajenko42 (627901) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844255)

This is why the people who are promoting Solar Cooking [solarcooking.org] are doing so in third world countries. Solar cooking means they don't have to spend so much time looking for firewood, and they can keep their trees. Plus, it helps stave off global warming a little bit.

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

whoisvaibhav (654143) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844464)

I may agree with you on some things there, but to say that such a project will not help at all may be too presumptious. I know of experiments in India that were carried out on slum kids (who had never seen a computer). In these projects, they were provided access to a computer without any training whatsoever and were getting online and using the web within a very short period of time. If you want to read more, then google "Hole in the wall".

Re:have they been to tthe 'least developed nations (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844922)

Hint: Not all regions and countries are identical.

There are places like you describe. Those aren't likely to be the first targets of such projects.

Education is however the only solution. Water. Food. Education. That's about the priority. You can not solve peoples problems for them for ever. You can however help them learn how to solve them themselves. A much much much better use of resources.

don't forget (0, Troll)

rolyatknarf (973068) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843896)

They need to install a link so that all traffic can be monitored by a government agency.

We need this here, too. (4, Interesting)

rkcallaghan (858110) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843897)

For both out of range "country" areas (some of the most beautiful lands you'll ever see, btw.); and simple urban expansion. Maybe something similar to this could spur an adoption of solar panels on homes that could take a dent out of our energy use enough to stop rolling blackouts. Imagine if you could, buying/installing a system on your home that would not only cut your energy bill, but give you free high speed wifi to boot. Most states have a buyback system on any energy you produce, and it wouldn't take much energy "sold back" to pay for the cost of broadband and a profit for the maintainers.

~Rebecca

Re:We need this here, too. (3, Insightful)

Kaktrot (962696) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844096)

Solar cells are really bitchin', but it takes a very long time to make your money back or save money on electricity equal to the initial cost of the units, which is rather prohibitive for most people. Small applications, like these little repeater/router stations is on an entirely different scale than powering one's home. If this weren't so, the simple economics of it would probably see cells installed on all new homes. Not the best link, but the best one I could find in two minutes: http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx? id=16736&ch=biztech [technologyreview.com]

Re:We need this here, too. (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844406)

If you're already on the grid, then yes, the payback period for photovoltaic panels is a few years or more. But weighed against the expense of running wires to a remote location, the initial cost of PV is vastly less in a lot of cases. When you include maintenance expenses, it's a no-brainer.

(The word "solar" describes so many types of energy, referring specifically to photovoltaic panels helps avoid confusion with things like solar heat. Really, all biomass fuels, including petroleum, started as solar, and wind gets its energy from the sun too.)

Re:We need this here, too. (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844884)

Ah, Hell! I just realized that the reason I keep getting killed on my game server is that it's not powered by Photo Voltaic Panels after all.

Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (5, Insightful)

Shihar (153932) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843907)

The complaints are coming, so let me just preempt them. Yes, money should be spent on feeding people. Yes, they need food, water, and medical care first and foremost. The problem is that the basic necessities of life are not enough.

The rich nations of the world could divert massive portions of their GDP to feed the impoverished world. Even if you could political find the will to do this, it would solve nothing. Poverty is a symptom of a much larger problem. The core of the problem lies in education. If they can be educated, they can save themselves. Hence, things like cheap Wi-fi while certainly is not a silver bullet, it at least begins to pick away at the problem.

Education is the key. With education and access to information other problems can start be solved. Good democratic governance absolutely demands an education population that is able to vote outside of tribal ties. Educated leaders are need to tackle both social and economic problems, and not just in government, but in business as well. The core of a functional democratic government is an educated population. We can feed the impoverished nations of the world from now until the end of time, but until educated leaders step up they will remain impoverished.

So yes to those that will surely complain about this "waste" of money, these people need food and clean water. Food and water is not the cure though. Education, information, a fiscal boost once good governance is in place are the solution. Throwing money at the worlds poor just to feed them is like pumping blood into a man with a severed artery; the problem isn't that he is running out of blood, the problem is that he has a severed artery.

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (1)

tonyr1988 (962108) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843971)

Yes, but what about food and water?

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15843979)

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate. I turned out fine by learning from books. Not that I'm jealous, but how many MORE books could you provide with 100 dollars? I'm not talking science and math, but also cultural books. Let them learn about the world rather than post to MySpace. In the right hands the Internet is a useful tool, sure, but 99.999% of the shit on here is just that, shit. Lookit the aforementioned MySpace. There's popups, viruses, and advertising. This is a novel idea, sure, but at best that's al it is.

Now I'm completely out of touch with their song here. When I worked behind the scenes years ago alongside a bunch of salesmen, the mantra was "It isn't selling, it's telling the customer about our stuff so they can choose. If we don't tell them, we're deciding for them." I can understand the viewpoint of "Oh they need the Internet because everyone else has it." but do they really really need it? Especially at school?

In my experience, having more recently worked in IT for a school district, giving kids access to computers was simply a distraction. Like that "Oo, shiny thing!" syndrome. So we started locking down on the access they had. Internet was supervised by teachers for research on class topics only, Word was accessible for writing reports if kids didn't have a PC (or more commonly, had one that only ran Windows 3.1) and there were classes to familiarize them with more of the typical office tools, spreadsheets, etc, particularly in business classes. Email was used some times for kids to turn in homework, but email access was typically restricted to high school (partially because of IT budget restraints at the time.)

There was a structure in place to show kids how to utilize the computer world as a tool. This just sounds like, *flick of a switch* "Here you go! Wireless Internet!" in places that probably would benefit just as well from education through more "traditional" methods.

Or maybe I'm just naive.

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (0)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844212)

Maybe we don't have trees to print books for all billions out there. Maybe it's time for us to stop thinking a book is only something printed in paper. Maybe we can spend more money creating better text-books if we don't have to print'em. Maybe kids will be encouraged to read more complicated texts because looking up a word in a dictionary is just a matter of a right-click. I was contrary to all of this idea up to some minutes ago, but after reading your comments I started thinking that things. And well, maybe it's a good idea after all...

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844241)

how many MORE books could you provide with 100 dollars

How many books can you print for 100 dollars anyhow? About 200? Maybe 400? If you need to pay for copyrights, maybe 4. If it's an university level book, maybe 1 or 2.

How many books are there on the Internet? (Hint: Project Gutenberg.)

How about free university level course materials on the Internet (e.g. ocw.mit.edu)

Of course, language skills present a hurdle.

But if one out of a thousand people in a poor village strikes gold, it has a very real chance of boosting the economy measurably. Think GDP per capita for the place around 500 (e.g. Haiti) for a total gross product of 500 000. Now one guy really shines at something and starts working for a first-world company over the Internet, raking in 30k/year. That'll be 150 times what the average person is making. He could comfortably hire and train 100 people and expand the business. If each of the new recruits makes just 5k/year on average, their combined gross product will be 500 000, doubling the village's wealth and enabling them to buy e.g. a tractor to free more people from agricultural labor and weapons to defend their new wealth (poor state with low education == warlords, dictator or worse.)

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844058)

I'm on the fence about it myself. I see it as a good idea in some ways and a waste in others.

Classically the reason these super poor regions are so poor is either lack of resources or people with power come in and exploit the resources. Exceptions exist I'm sure but this is the gist of it as far as I understand.

The best way to help them is help them create a situation in which it becomes worthwhile to invest money in infastructure in said countries. Increasing education levels is a good way to do this.

The reason I'm skeptical though is the question of who gets the education? If India buys a million of these laptops will they use them all over the country or just to educate a select group of people?

What about countries with religous/racial bigotry? Perhaps they'll buy many of the laptops and give them only to people who support the states vision.

I'm not as educated on this as I should be but hasn't this been a problem with food as well? Often when we give out charity in this way some individual in power in these underdeveloping countries will turn around and use it in some twisted way to gain yet more power while doing little to improve the overall good of the country.

The laptops are not a waste I just worry that they will never really be used properly.

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844118)

>What about countries with religous/racial bigotry? Perhaps they'll buy many of the laptops and give them only to people who support >the states vision.

Or, what if the government decides it wishes to start censoring the internet? (Either through technical means or through threats of imprisonment for certain political speech.) Do we take away the laptops? Do we let it happen? Or what...?

No learning, no bread. No bread, no learning. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844415)

Keeping people from starving in the several ongoing world disasters is not something we should abandon but that has nothing to do with why portable laptops and networks are good for "developing" nations.

The simple justification for these projects is that it's cheaper education. Dead tree based information is expensive and fragile. Think of the tons of material required for every village to have even a rudimentary library. One leaky roof or arson can take it all away. Now realize how easily that library can be replaced with a few hundred gigs of storage and a good network. Think of how hard it would be to do permanent damage to that kind of system. For much less than the cost of libraries in key cities, a country can make the same information available in an impossible to deny way to all of it's citizens. Collaborative tools, like Wikipedia, are the future of knowledge distribution and not just for those of us rich enough to think of our computers as gaming platforms and superfluous additions to "real" research at a library. Educated people can take care of themselves and that's what the world needs most.

Re:No learning, no bread. No bread, no learning. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844431)

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Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (4, Insightful)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844532)

We could divert a major fraction of our GDP to feeding the billion starving people in the world. But we don't. The U.S. government spends less on development aid than its citizens spend on pornography. Worse, we spend waaaay more subsidizing our own agricultural industries, in order to protect them from competing with millions of slightly-better-than-subsistence farmers.

Also, I consider the whole "good governance" mantra a cop-out. Yes, there are many corrupt countries to point to. But even the countries with good leadership are hamstrung by payments on old debts and irrational demands by the IMF. Too often, the cycle goes like this: the old regime is thrown out, replaced by someone who wants to make life better for a country. But to do that, they need money, because a government without money is just a bunch of people sitting around wearing poofy wigs. The IMF offers them a loan, which they really can't afford to pass up. But in order to get the loan, the IMF demands that they do things that will lead them to the Holy Grail of Economic Development: capital investment. The measures for attracting investment are simple, yet cruel: balance their budgets, privatize state-run institutions, and remove any restrictions on the flow of goods and capital into their country.

Balancing the budget means cutting back on expensive programs that provide for the poor, the elderly, and the unemployed. Liberalized trade means that while people get cheaper goods, the gain comes at the cost of jobs, as the market wrings out the "inefficient" producers. Liberalized capital controls means that investment money pours into the country when times are good (causing inflation), and flees at the first sign of trouble. The newly privatized industries have meanwhile fallen into the hands of foreign investors, who frankly don't care if the industries are serving the needs of the country, so long as they're delivering 22% a year.

The people look at the massive unemployment and the piecemeal sale of their country to foreigners, and they don't see good governance. Quite the opposite. So they throw the bums out, and the IMF just shakes its head and mutters about how sad it is that so many countries have such a shortage of good leadership.

Compare those outcomes with the Asian economies, which are growing rapidly while steadfastly ignoring the IMF's advice and rejecting their loans.

Re:Going for a cure; not treating the sympton (3, Insightful)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844646)

This technology can help people escape poverty. Not long ago, I listend to an interview about the cellular phone networks in... some African nation. One where there's enough violence that the cellular companies won't go in there - the country built it itself. He talked about how much of a benefit it has had on the local economy - and not just because it gave the small, mom-and-pop shops run out of houses something (cell cards) to sell, but because it allowed rural farmers to find markets for their crops besides the (often dishonest) middlemen who came to them. It's benefiting the rich, yes, but the poor are benefiting more.

I think that this might just work along those lines as well.

Hindenberg (3, Interesting)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843918)

What about Wifi Baloons [netstumbler.com] ? This may become very cheap, and cover a much larger area.

As someone involved in a wi-fi WISP (4, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843928)

I wish them luck. In my opinion, using wi-fi for this application is really pushing a technology way past what it was actually designed for. There are so many points of failure and a lot of equipment that comes so close to working perfectly...yet fails for unknown reasons. There are issues with bandwidth and interference from the limited channels (maybe over there with no FCC, they can one-up us on that one?).

I was talking to someone who has also deployed wi-fi just the other day. His honest opinion of his equipment was that the companies selling wi-fi seem to be more interested in selling a lot of equipment than they were in spending the time to develop solid equipment that actually worked and worked solidly.

Of course, I smell MESH networks, and nothing sounds cooler than a wireless MESH network...but in my experience, there is also a lot hype there that also falls flat when you actually try and deploy it.

Of course, some of our problems have resulted in some crappy boards we were sold, but even if they were working 100%, I'm still less than impressed with wi-fi on a large scale like that.

Transporter_ii

Our inside joke about wireless internet (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843963)

at work... It is a variation of something like a drinking game only it doesn't involve drinking. It works like this. Every time you hear someone mention the words "mailbox money" in the same sentence as wireless Internet, you must immediately pull out a knife and jab them in the stomach. Then, as fast as you can, you must find the closest available dumpster and throw the body in it. And hey, it is actually a lot more fun that it sounds. (To stay somewhat on topic, at least the people in India aren't going to be trying to make a profit off of what they are doing). Transporter_ii

Wifi is the wrong tool for the job. (4, Interesting)

Myself (57572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844124)

You're exactly right, Wi-fi is a last-meter solution, and people are trying to use it for last-mile and more. It'd be wonderful to see a solar-powered wireless mesh network, but not running 802.11anything!

What's interesting is that the Ricochet [wikispaces.com] network has already been designed, deployed, proven, mismarketed, and abandoned. Metricom's routing protocol was vastly superior to anything else in this space, and now YDI's got the patents locked up.

Airespace was founded by a bunch of ex-Metricom brains, and it looks like they built many of the same smarts into the same [cisco.com] casing [wikispaces.com] . Then Airespace got bought by Cisco and they call it the 1500. I wouldn't mind playing with a few dozen of these.

Anyway, if someone could convince YDI to open the intellectual property, that warehouse full of Ricochet poletops could be deployed anywhere in the world. The modems are cheap, the hardware is bulletproof, and did I mention they go a mile on the stock rubber ducks?

Most WISPs are run by dummies. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844143)

I managed a huge wireless ISP using 802.11b, then later g as well, as well as 900MHz and 5.8Ghz gear. The "weird" problems all our competitors had, and you apparently had are all caused by not knowing what you are doing. Use quality components, including connectors and cable, and install them right and things will be great. Several of our wireless backbone links had better uptime than the fibre we used to connect our network to the internet.

OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (4, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843959)

But someone mentioned to me a thought expressed in some TV show or another (West Wing?), that what poor third world countries need are roads. That kind of struck me as having "the ring of truth" about it.

Rule of law and basic economic freedom seem to provide the best means out of poverty, every time it is implemented, and roads might help that effort along.

I know building the Interstate Highway system in the USA seems to have done wonders in a country that was doing well anyhow, but how about it? Aren't roads high tech enough to be sexy?

After all, how do you deliver X (medicine, water purifiers, food, laptops and WiFi set-ups) without roads?

On the other hand, the cynical side of me thinks... if you put solar powered anything that might have any other use... it will get stolen.

Maybe you really do need "rule of law" first.

Re:OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (1)

chgros (690878) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844025)

if you put solar powered anything that might have any other use... it will get stolen.
Not if they're aren't any roads for the thief to get away ;)

Re:OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (1)

ZeroPly (881915) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844085)

And how exactly are sub-Saharan Africans going to build the roads? By melting tar in their cooking utensils over camp fires? Or do you propose we send over several dozen highway crews from the US at a time when we're not even adequately maintaining our own infrastructure?

Construction of a robust transportation system assumes that you have machinery and expertise, both of which would be in very short supply in a developing country. The only way out of a situation like that, and I mean the ONLY way, is education. You can't plop an industrial foundation into place overnight - you have to educate people as to what is possible, and let them build their own.

Even "rule of law" presupposes a certain level of literacy - how are you going to codify and distribute your laws if noone can read them? In this case the solution lies with people, not technology. It's better to have a trained doctor in a village who has the bare supplies he needs to function rather than boxes of powerful antibiotics that noone knows how to use.

Sorry... forgot to suggest Mr. Gates's Money (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844227)

I meant to say something about the Gates foundation spending money on mundane stuff like roads, instead of/in addition to the stuff they already do.

And by "roads", I do mean literally roads, but also any other infrastructure that we westerners might overlook as "obvious". How about some more phone lines, etc.

Maybe assasinate a few warlords on the sly, while you are at it. You know, basic stuff.

OT: private message. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844246)

Time to change your password again, "password3" has been compromised. :-)

Re:Sorry... forgot to suggest Mr. Gates's Money (2, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844376)

"I meant to say something about the Gates foundation spending money on mundane stuff like roads, instead of/in addition to the stuff they already do.... And by "roads", I do mean literally roads, but also any other infrastructure that we westerners might overlook as "obvious". How about some more phone lines, etc."

You're absolutely right about basic infrastructure. Transport and communications are integral to a viable economy. This, by the way, is exactly why we need tools like solar powered wireless - to bootstrap communications in areas where 'proper' infrastructure of the kind you see in North America or western Europe is just plain impossible.

You'll be glad to know, by the way, that the US is devoting USD 68 million to the country where I work to do exactly that. It's building roads, airstrips and wharfs. By all accounts, it's one of the best-run development projects this country has seen since colonial times.

Re:Sorry... forgot to suggest Mr. Gates's Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844876)

the US is devoting USD 68 million to the country where I work to do exactly that. It's building roads, airstrips and wharfs.

Good Gravy! The Americans are obviously planning to invade the place. What else would they want all those roads and airstrips for... tanks and planes. Get out while you still can!

Re:OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (1)

Jeff Molby (906283) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844270)

Your response was simply pessimism masquerading as logic. Using your own thought process, how could we possibly educate that many people when we're barely even maintaining our own education infrastructure?

The bottom line is that there's no simple bottom line. It takes a constant cycle of capital and education in order to grow an economy. You're more than welcome to debate how the capital should be spent and how the education should be accomplished, but it's useless to debate which should come first.

As a side note, please remember that rudimentary roads can be built without heavy machinery. I'm sure there's no shortage of labor in these countries.

Re:OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (0, Flamebait)

solitas (916005) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844256)

Good words, yours are.

Christ forbid they should get fed, watered, vaccinated, housed, clothed, educated, kept from self-infection (i.e. indiscriminate f**king), and kept from shooting each other _before_ they get to cruise MySpace, Amazon, and eBay while downloading porn, receiving spam (though, receiving Nigerian '419' emails would be delightfully ironic), and enduring BSODs.

Re:OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (1)

Mick_Australia (947125) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844410)

One of the things commonly done in these communities to prevent theft is to encourage "ownership" of the equipment by the community. For example, including an icon of the relevant religion in the area, or getting the kids of the school to paint it (not over the panels obviously!). The key to being a succesful charity, like that of a succesful *NIX tool, is to do one job and do it very well. There are already programs in place for providing medicine, funding roads, bringing in teachers etc. Green Wi-fi's aiming to solve the problem it's uniquely suited to: providing connectivity to places with no or limited power. This is obviously designed to be done in combination with other programs.

Re:OT: Tech stuff is all well and good... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844709)

After all, how do you deliver X (medicine, water purifiers, food, laptops and WiFi set-ups) without roads?

Trains. Ships. etc.

Most countries don't have the same love affair Americans do, with cars.

And in some places, like the Australian outback, the huge truck-trains go over primitive dirt roads constantly.

The interstate system was important in the US because cars were primitive at the time. Their skinny wooden wheels couldn't handle soft dirt or mud.

The problems of other countries can't be solved by just blindly duplicating the development of the USA.

Isnt going to help (2, Insightful)

Venim (846130) | more than 7 years ago | (#15843990)

Unfortunately as many people have pointed out, most people in these impoverished countries have very little knowledge of modern electronics let alone electricity. Why would they spend $100 on a laptop instead of something they could use such as food? If they give people these laptops chances are they will sell them to try and get food. In the end, we could be better spending this research money on food. Get the picture :)?

Once Spain gets more reliable power, WiFi there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844036)

I read Spain is part of this, but the infrastructure there is not advanced enough. Here's hoping Spain gets out of their third world status and up to second world like Portugal and France.

Re:Once Spain gets more reliable power, WiFi there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844073)

Perhaps you missed the part about the nodes being solar powered... or it's time for you to move to France or Portugal for a second-world education?

Re:Once Spain gets more reliable power, WiFi there (1)

tfurrows (541222) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844095)

You should note that summary mentions 1) a solar powered network and 2) distribution plans for India. I wouldn't rate India as a glistening example of first-world power grids; even the largest companies there use diesel-powered generators as their primary power source (HCL for one).

Spain may be better or worse as far as the grid is concerned, but I'm pretty sure they have a similar (or more favorable) solar index...

Re:Once Spain gets more reliable power, WiFi there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844481)

Maybe spanish citizens won't agree with you trying to change their economy to a comunist/socialist one. "Second world" are countries like Cuba and old soviet union.

Oh, maybe you were talking about that OTHER Spain we just don't know?

Great! Coco-net! (0, Flamebait)

cb_abq (894167) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844082)

Howz about we just forget about bringing our depraved culture to the developing world and strive to eliminate genocide and rampant overpopulation.

But India isn't doing OLPC! (1)

glowworm (880177) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844113)

According to a recent /. thread [slashdot.org] India has rejected the OLPC project, so how will a solar WiFi mesh create anything more than the ability for the rich to get access on their Lenovo's, Sony's and Toshiba's when they are doing a visit to the slums?

WiFi access for $100 laptops, and more (1)

Netssansfrontieres (214626) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844163)

One of the sad things in this note is the implication that the $100 laptop won't have Internet access.

This is pure nonsense, and it is amazing to see this repeated at /. without even a brief attempt to look it up. It is not relevant what William Gates Jr. asserts. What is relevant is this: every description of the $100 laptops has repeatedly referred to the inclusion therein of WiFi. Further, Nicholas Negroponte, father of the machines, has for years espoused use of WiFi for ad hoc meshes.

min^us 2, Troll) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15844166)

of BSD/OSY. A [goat.cx]

thought process. . . (1)

treak007 (985345) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844177)

. . . along the lines of , "hmmm, the people are poor and upset, hmmm we could give them food, water and shelter, or pr0n....hmmmm, lets go with pron."

Free WiFi and Diamonds and Water in the Desert (2, Interesting)

TheNarrator (200498) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844185)

A man is in the desert dying of thirst. A guy on a camel comes up to him and offers him a jug of water for his diamonds which he gladly trades.

An illterate family is dying of hunger somewhere in a Africa. Someone offers them a loaf of bread to melt down their free solar powered wi-fi station and latop as scrap metal. They gladly trade.

That's the problem in these places where people are starving and illiterate. Any kind of infrastructure you put in is just going to be sold as scrap for food. This might not be the case in India, where people aren't starving to death and are not totally uneducated, but this kind of thing has happened over and over again in Africa. People put in an elaborate desert irrigation system to grow food and all the pipe fittings are stolen and sold as scrap metal.

Re:Free WiFi and Diamonds and Water in the Desert (2, Insightful)

Almahtar (991773) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844368)

Just because a country is poor doesn't mean its residents are all starving and foolish. There will be plenty of people that will realize that their childrens' futures rest in education, and that these machines are keys to that door. There will be plenty of parents that would sooner starve than relinquish that. It's a typical middle to upper class misconception that everyone in a less developed country is either starving or ignorant or both, and that's really not the case.

Re:Free WiFi and Diamonds and Water in the Desert (1)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844626)

This will give those poor, starving families a chance to make money running "Nigerian" schemes. :)

steve

Telstra beware (1)

jkburges (991357) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844416)

Well, Australia is not exactly a developing country, but in terms of its broadband services it practically is. Telstra seem to be having a bit of trouble getting broadband out to regional Australia http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,20003063-1702 ,00.html?from=rss [news.com.au] , maybe they could take a look at this!

Satellite (1)

kahrytan (913147) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844708)


Ever heard of Satellite Broadband [fcc.gov] ? It's not as fast as fiber optic cabling but it works in remote areas.

Install base (1)

luketheduke (945392) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844775)

Look at it this way, while helping the developing countries gain technology. Linux will actually gain a relevant desktop install base...lol

Wireless Networking in the Developing World (1)

Draco_es (628422) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844864)

Related with this, this book [wndw.net] shows how wireless can help to improve things in those countries, apart of being a very practical guide to wireless networking. A few miles bridge can be used to share a VSAT connnection, that would be completly out of budget otherwise.

Not only focuses on technical issues, but also in how to make self-financiable and self-mantenible infraestructures. An excellent read.

Oh Fun (1)

StaticVector (944624) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844893)

Now I can hand crank my way to the web with the tremendous speed of 1.5mbps across the entire network, which is shared with a million other hand crankers. I think I will go back outside and kick the soccer ball around while I wait for my 1kb text file download.

Sneakernet (1)

andyr (78903) | more than 7 years ago | (#15844955)

Wizzy Digital Courier [wizzy.org.za] is a system that allows internet (email, web scrapes, anything that will move via UUCP) to be delivered - from a place that has conventional access to an isolated system or network. Some pretty pictures [wizzydigital.org] for you. The price point moves down to zero, with someone helpful upstream. Bandwidth is not too bad either - a USB stick can hold a lot more than you can transfer using dialup.
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