Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications
Ken Novak's Weblog
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Reporters sans frontières - The Internet under surveillance 2004
: "Obstacles to the free flow of information online,
" reported by country for about 40 countries. Also, in the article On a Filtered Internet, Things Are Not As They Seem
, RSF reports that many countries have gone beyond blocking web sites: "The past year has brought a rise of new filtering methods that, intentionally or by happenstance, are considerably more confusing. Try using Google in China : Most searches work fine.. But run a search on a controversial policy area, and Google will stop working for perhaps half an hour. ..
Still more subtle are the "modified mirrors" sometimes used in Uzbekistan. Rather than simply blocking access to sites of political dissenters, Uzbek authorities make copies of the controversial sites - then change the copies to undermine or weaken the unsanctioned positions. The key step : When Uzbek users request the controversial sites, they automatically receive the altered copies in place of the authentic originals. Experts might realize something is wrong, but this tampering is exceptionally difficult for ordinary users to notice or detect. " 10:33:53 PM
Thursday, July 29, 2004
In battle against hunger and rural poverty, UN uses satellites and Internet: " United Nations agencies have developed a new Internet-based system to provide vital agricultural information to decision-makers in developing countries. ..GeoNetwork’s InterMap viewer, developed jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), allows users to overlay maps from multiple servers housed at development institutions worldwide to create a customized thematic composite map on their own computer covering such variables as soil quality, vegetation and population density and marketing access. ..
In Mozambique, 12 government and international agencies working on agriculture, food security and humanitarian issues have been using it since September 2003 to share information and avoid duplication. WFP has implemented the system in its regional bureaux in Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. " 9:15:17 PM
GFS Tactical Radio Comms: Application of Groove to emergency group voice comms, at the Strong Angel 2 exercise: "Groove 3.0 feature called Groove Folder Sync (GFS). With Groove 3.0 installed, GFS allows one to share a Windows file system folder with another Groove user without using a shared space as the container. One of the requirements at Strong Angel was to demonstrate how tactical radio communications could be extended to other continents. ..
As police, fire, and other first responder communications came in across the radios, [their voices] would be trapped and converted into MP3. The files were then dropped into a GFS folder which immediately synchronized GFS folders in Baghdad, Washington, and other parts of the globe.
I constructed a .NET app that would monitor folder events and then play these MP3's as they came in. It mimicked a police scanner. A civil affairs soldier sitting in Baghdad could then hear the actual tactical communications as they came in from our exercise in Hawaii." 9:20:46 AM
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Virtual Research Associates (VRA)
: The VRA reporter is used by humanitarian agencies to record incidents and other information regarding the security of their field workers. It integrates information from wire services with direct reporting, and has a GIS function. An interface with Groove and other non-web-based tools is being explored. The company's other tools
track international news of many types
, with one product that "providies early warnings about potential international “hot spots”". The natural language processing comes from ongoing research project at Harvard's school of international relations. 10:27:26 AM
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Completing the Revolution: The Challenge of Rural Telephony in Africa
: Report with brief summary online, on the most basic telecom need. "At present, the lack of rural connections is often hidden behind impressive overall figures for the growth of telephony. Important development Initiatives such as NEPAD and the World Summit on the Information Society focus on internet-based ICTs, and where they mention telephony at all it is in general terms." 5:14:34 PM
ICT online course: "Information and Communication Technologies for Development," Instructor: Barbara Fillip, developed and taught through the USDA Graduate School from 1999 to 2003. It has been offered online since 2001.
The goal of the course is to familiarize participants with key concepts and issues related to the potential and real impacts of information and communication technologies on the social, economic and political development of the less developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America." 5:05:04 PM
Sunday, July 25, 2004
WIFI and Route Security
: In Strong Angel 2, they tested use of WiFi to aircraft, and among cars in a convoy. The aircraft test had problems, but the car-to-car test worked over 1.5 miles, with streaming video and voice, all p2p with no servers. Interesting app for NGO and military supply convoys. 8:23:38 AM
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Global Relief Technologies
: Combines GPS, GIS, and field data gathering on PDA's. "Global Relief Technologies’ integrated solution contains two basic service components – the SMART™; (Satellite Mapping and Rapid Telecommunications Software) and the Virtual Internet-enabled Network Operations Center (or VNOC) information management capability.The SMART™ software currently reflects humanitarian standards as established by the United Nations and the US Agency for International Development and can be modified to suit other field data collection requirements. " 8:58:40 AM
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Mysterian: Groove application developer, with a nifty telemedicine app to transfer and track xrays and other images from the field to specialists: "Radiology Manager, the first product from our Mysterian Medical Suite, brings the power of secure, flexible, collaborative working to the healthcare sector. .. “As Radiographers, it gives us the advantage of having a radiologist to back us up when needed as we are often without their physical presence”, says Malcolm. “Utilising Groove for image review can ensure patients are transferred promptly to the correct speciality unit or, indeed, save patients having an unnecessary trip to the mainland.” 11:59:28 PM
: This NGO's updated site contains a paper
by Sanjana Yajitha Hattotuwa
detailing how Groove was used in the Sri Lanka peace process and subsequent elections. Many illustrations. Great example of ICT to facilitate collaboration in a developing country. Inspiring work. 11:43:50 PM
LocustWorld Mesh Access Points: "The MeshBox is a box about the size of a small video recorder. It has a number of ports for connecting other devices and one or more on-board WiFi radios. It is a multi-purpose device, but its core function is creating wide area wireless broadband. This means that each MeshBox communicates with other MeshBoxes nearby and the internet signal is passed from one box to the next, over the air, until it reaches the final destination. ..
There are no plans to commercialize the core LocustWorld MeshAP device, this will always be available to download from the website as an open product. "
It's a linux application. The standard box has Prism2 wireless, 32mb CF boot media, 128mb ram, 500mhz CPU. Small form-factor and battery-powered boxes available. Example hardware models: standard, outdoor (each about $400). 11:08:10 PM
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Strong Angel II: 17-22 July, Kona, Hawaii: Important experiment in integrating IT in disaster relief. "The event is designed to encourage the development and evaluation of tools designed for humanitarian information collection and use within an austere environment. We're particularly interested in proposed solutions that cross the civil-military boundary gracefully and reliably during a post-conflict reconstruction." Leader is Eric Rasmussen. Facts and links:
InterAction Disaster Response Training Database:
"AN INVENTORY OF COURSES AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE DISASTER RESPONSE COMMUNITY. .. The Disaster Response Training Database (DRTDB) is a response .. to the increasing need for highly trained disaster response personnel who are able to operate in some of the most complex and challenging environments imaginable. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the purpose of the DRTDB is to provide information on educational and training opportunities to the greater disaster response community as well as to bring together InterAction members and those professionals who have the skills and knowledge required to work in this field." 1:26:07 PM
Submit a Volunteer Opportunity for Cisco Employees:
Nonprofits can ask for Cisco employees to volunteer to help them. Cisco's "volunteer matching system matches individual employees and employee teams to philanthropic opportunities in their community. In addition, it also matches the core competency skills of our employees with nonprofit organizations that are seeking that expertise, including mentors for your organization or constituents.
Please register your organization in our Volunteer Connection Tool. Once you're in the application, your organization may request Cisco volunteers for your specific initiatives. (If an appropriate volunteer is matched at some point, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to proceed). We welcome one-time events as well as ongoing opportunities. We hope this system will give your organization access to more volunteers and will save you time in recruiting, tracking, managing and communicating with those volunteers." 1:24:15 PM
Europe & CIS Regional Resource Facility
: "A publication on UNDP Best Practices and Know-How in ICT for Development contains a collection of knowledge-based best practices accumulated by UNDP in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). " Downloadable in whole or by country. 1:19:52 PM
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Digital India: Good Business Week review of many innovative uses of info tech for the poor in India. One example: "Five years ago, the Karnataka state government launched a program to computerize the land records of 6.7 million farmers in 30,000 villages. Two years later, all 20 million deeds had been digitized and filed along with information such as the land's productive capacity and any loans that use the property as collateral. Today, the information is available in Kannada, the local language, through 200 government-owned computer kiosks in administrative offices across the state. Muniratnama, a cheerful 45-year-old farmer, traveled 15 kilometers from her village to Bangalore for a copy of her land record so she could get a loan to replant her 1.6 hectares. The new system, she says, is far better than the old way. "The village accountant was corrupt," she says with disgust. "He'd delay making any changes, and he made mistakes, too." ..
With the number of success stories growing, though, Nasscom and the World Bank are planning a fund of up to $1 billion to support promising ideas" 6:06:10 PM