Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications
Ken Novak's Weblog
Monday, September 29, 2003
Friday, September 26, 2003
WorldWater Inaugurates Solar Municipal Water System in Cebu, Philippines
: "WorldWater the Municipality of Ronda, Cebu, Philippines, will inaugurate the world's first solar powered, prepaid municipal water distribution system on September 27 in Ronda. Former Philippines President Fidel V. Ramos will be the keynote speaker. Ronda is located on the southwest coast of Cebu, an island in the middle group of the Philippine archipelago.
For the first time, a municipal water distribution system utilizes smart card technology as a financing solution for community water production and to remove problems associated with the payment collection process. The Ronda system uses WorldWater's proprietary AquaCard(TM) (Smart Card) debit card system, which operates directly with WorldWater's AquaMeter(TM) solar pumping stations throughout the community. The project was made possible by a commercial loan from the Philippine National Bank (PNB), and required no special subsidies or grants. " 5:23:10 PM
No electricity? Use a wind-up phone charger
: "Japan's Fuso Rikaseihin Co. Ltd, which makes the charger. Priced at $42, the hand-held generator is quite noisy and not cheap, although it comes with a built-in flashlight. It can be used with phones from Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and NTT Docomo. " 5 minutes of winding gives 20 mins of talk time. Motorola came out with its own winder earlier this year. 5:18:45 PM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Opening up the BBC archive: "Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives. Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet. The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes, Mr Dyke added. " More interpretation from a blogger: "While the commercial companies fret over the dangers of P2P and zero-cost replication, the BBC has realised that this is its greatest opportunity. Not to beat commercial media concerns, but to finally stop mimicking them. It's heartening to see how quickly the BBC spotted this. From the first informal conversations at the lowest levels, to the acceptance by the most cynical realists at the top of the corporation, it took just 18 months for the BBC to get it. Compare that to the tardiness of the supposedly fast-thinking commercial companies. .. There are some big questions. Sorting out the contractual issues with anything but completely internally produced content will be difficult. There are artist's residuals (payments made to actors for repeat showings of their work), external commercial content, and international rights to consider." 11:03:11 AM
Update on MIT Everyware (Sept 2003): "MIT announced to the world in April 2001 that it would be posting the content of some 2,000 classes on the Web.. MIT would make everything, from video lectures and class notes to tests and course outlines, available to any joker with a browser. .. here was the pinnacle of technology and science education ready to give it away. Not the degrees, which now cost about $41,000 a year, but the content. No registration required. .. The idea quickly attracted outside funding. The William and Flora Hewlett and the Andrew W. Mellon foundations ponied up a total of $11 million for the first two-year phase. .. [This year OpenCourseWare has] 500 courses, offerings like Nuclear Engineering Course 22.312: Engineering of Nuclear Reactors, and Political Science 17.251: Congress and the American Political System. The school expects to add the remaining 1,500 courses over the next three years. ..
One of the most popular offerings turned out to be Laboratory in Software Engineering, aka 6.170, a tough requirement for electrical engineering and computer science majors. Lam Vi Quoc, a fourth-year student at Vietnam's Natural Sciences University, relied on 6.170 lectures to supplement a software lab he was taking, and Evan Hoff, a software developer in Nashville, followed the course to improve his coding skills. In Karachi, Pakistan, a group of 100 students and professionals met weekly to study 6.170. In Kansas City, five members of the Greater Kansas City Java Professionals Association gathered monthly to take the course. In Mauritius, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, Priya Durshini Thaunoo used 6.170 to prepare for a master's degree program at the University of Mauritius. Saman Zarandioon, an Iranian refugee living in Vienna, studied it to continue an education that was stalled by the Iranian government. And software developer Rahul Thadani in Birmingham, Alabama, took it to sharpen his skills. ..
In addition to students, the material appeals to countless educators at other universities. Zhivko Nedev, a computer science professor at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, turns to 6.170 material to help him prepare lectures for his programming course. "It is the best thing I have ever seen in computer science," he says. Ludmila Matiash, at the Kyiv Mohyla Business School in Ukraine, draws on OpenCourseWare to design educational and training programs. Kathy Mann, manager of the biology lab at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, uses Biology 7.012: Introduction to Biology to teach students how to create lab reports and record information from science experiments. "It's really well done," she says. "Why reinvent the wheel?" The Fulbright Economic Teaching Program at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City makes its own content available online to any interested learners - and indicates on its site that it is taking a cue from OpenCourseWare. ..
MIT is working hard on other ways to extend OpenCourseWare's reach. In January, Universia, a Madrid-based consortium of universities, approached MIT about translating the material into Spanish and Portuguese. MIT signed a deal to authorize and vet the translations, and the first 25 courses will be available this month. The university has received similar requests from the Middle East, Ukraine, and Mongolia, but it won't forge any more official partnerships until it sees how the Universia deal goes.
Ultimately, MIT officials know, OpenCourseWare's success depends on the emergence of online communities to support individual courses. Margulies says MIT is eager to find third parties to create tools that would enable learners or educators to easily organize and manage discussion groups using OpenCourseWare content. "We'd like to see self-managed OpenCourseWare communities," says Margulies. "Our vision is to have this open source software on the site, as well as information that helps people build a learning community, whether it's in Namibia, Thailand, wherever." 10:18:33 AM
Monday, September 15, 2003
Invention for Sustainable Development
: "The Lemelson Foundation Invention for Sustainable Development Program fosters and unleashes human creativity and invention to meet basic human needs and build sustainable livelihoods for the world's poor people. " Advisory board members include Ashok Gadgil. 5:46:29 PM
Monday, September 08, 2003
Solar Energy ICT Project in Nigeria:
"The Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Turner Isoun, has said that the federal government has developed solar energy pilot project in Bayelsa State. The pilot solar energy project he said was developed to supplement the unsteady power supply to improve performance of Information Communication Technology (ICT)development in Nigeria. The move, the minister said, was the beginning of vigorous efforts channelled towards strengthening solar energy which is needed to support ICT equipment throughout the country, adding that more states will soon be provided with solar energy and ICT facilities." 12:10:37 PM
Friday, September 05, 2003
A 'Tale of Two Cities': Bridging the Digital Divide: Speech in India by president and CEO of Philips promotes Bottom of the Pyramid markets: "Let us see how widening access to technology for these people – by far the largest “new growth market” in human history – will in turn affect developed markets and perhaps solve some of the problems we face there. ..
A good example is the “Health Truck” developed by Philips and now in use in Argentina. In order to meet the health needs of impoverished areas of Argentina we provided a state of the art diagnostic clinic on wheels providing free CT scans that tours rural Argentina. This initiative brings advanced medical diagnosis to thousands of patients who would otherwise have no access to such benefits.
In the field of connectivity and consumer electronics, let me tell you about another initiative specifically designed to bring the urban poor of shantytowns and even more isolated rural areas into the digital community. Almost three billion people in these situations – many of them illiterate -- need to be able to communicate with family, employers and friends even though fixed line or wireless phones are way beyond their economic reach. Our solution is called “Voices in your Hand.” This project is already being tested in Recife, Brazil .. Using modified existing MP3 players that support voice recording and playback and carry a text free user interface, people can listen to personalised webcasts of audio information offline in their homes, talk back and use voice email. Then they visit a public utility point to link their sets to the Internet via USB. It’s not real-time or on-line, but remember you can buy 40 units for 40 families for the price of even the cheapest PC.
The availability of clean, safe drinking water is identified by the World Bank as the largest single factor affecting the health, wealth, and possibly the peace of humanity. .. it’s possible to have affordable, effective, small-scale water treatment at the astonishingly low cost of 10 US cents per villager per year using the Ultra Violet Waterworks (UVW) technology. The secret is to combine solar power, direct current and UV purification on a decentralised basis. Philips has all these technologies. Already, UVW systems are being tested around the world and one Indian organisation -- Ashok Gadgil – has shown the potential. ..
For those less wealthy, the model based around service rather than ownership is highly important whenever huge numbers of people require access to technology – not the device itself. In fact it’s probable that a ‘pay per use’ basis for technology will become just as common as “owning the box” and this will be the future business model for our industry.
A perfect example is the successful program of internet kiosks for rural areas here in India: it’s not necessary to own a computer to stay in touch. Likewise hospitals here in India (such as the facilities at and near Hyderabad and at Bangalore) have shown they are able to utilise diagnostic equipment such as CT scanners at very high rates, which make their use financially viable. .. Another important area in emerging markets is distance learning. .. Half of all households in India – that’s 100 million families - -do not yet have access to radio. We are already the largest suppliers of branded radios in the country. But if Philips could develop a radio that could be marketed for around R$s 200 – that’s around US$5 – we could enable huge numbers of people. " 12:03:14 PM
Tuesday, September 02, 2003