Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications
Ken Novak's Weblog
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
VOIP in development:
Good review of VOIP progress from Brian King of Interaction. Among several cases noted was a national developing country provider: "Eguitel Communications in Guinea-Bissau, the only company in Africa with an unrestricted VOIP license, included CrystalVoice software as a key technology in their plan for rural telecenters. The company plans to buy software licenses to support 24 simultaneous phone conversations. CrystalVoice offers a broad range of approaches and prices and reportedly will help clients identify the optimal solution and best return on investment. Eguitel will deploy Pentium III computers and handsets that run from USB ports into the phone booths. The telecenters will be connected via an existing 11 megabyte, fixed-antenna microwave network. The company expects the investment to be amortized very quickly, through mostly in-country traffic." 11:24:36 PM
Friday, September 17, 2004
Magic Bike :: Wireless Access Bike
: Fun combination of 'art' and tech: "magicbike is a mobile WiFi (wireless Internet) hotspot that gives free Internet connectivity wherever its ridden or parked. By turning a common bicycle into a wireless hotspot, Magicbike explores new delivery and use strategies for wireless networks and modern-day urbanites. Wireless bicycles disappear into the urban fabric and bring Internet to yet unserved spaces and communities. Mixing public art with techno-activism, Magicbikes are perfect for setting up adhoc Internet connectivity for art and culture events, emergency access, public demonstrations, and communities on the struggling end of the digital-divide." 11:15:31 PM
Indian state rolls out wireless broadband: "An Indian state has launched wireless broadband to provide connectivity in rural areas unreachable by traditional telephone lines or cellular phone services. The community Internet kiosks, named Akshaya, have been set up by the Kerala State IT Mission Department. More than 550 of the kiosks have been opened in the Mallapuram district, spread over 3,500 square kilometers. .. Five Wi-Fi hotspots have also been established around government offices and a tourist resort. "This is the world's biggest rural wireless network," H.S. Bedi, managing director of Tulip IT Services," an Indian IT services provider that developed the project.
The gear comes from the Canadian Wi-Lan: "its Versatile Intelligent Network Environment technology deployed in India is designed to "line of sight" limitations, using network nodes as repeaters and routers for other nodes that either do not have line-of-sight or are too distant to have direct connectivity to the Internet node. VINE networks can cost less than conventional cell-based networks, particularly when covering large, sparsely populated areas, the company said. WiLan is also setting up a statewide WLAN in another state, Gujarat."" 11:08:38 PM
: "a $250 gizmo that does a whole bunch of things: a computer, a TV, a DVD player, a videophone -- a PCTVt. "I kept asking myself, What would the device have to do for someone on the other side of the digital divide, to be desirable?"wondered Raj Reddy, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The answer, he decided, was a simple device that would offer entertainment. This November, Reddy hopes to begin installing the first 100 prototypes of the PCTVt in India and possibly several other countries. Reddy is hoping his project -- with backing from Microsoft and TriGem, the Korean computer maker, and in partnership with the Indian Institute of Science, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley -- can prove that it is possible to bring IT to impoverished communities without depending on philanthropy. Because his low-cost computer doubles as a TV and a DVD player, Reddy believes that he will be able to use it as a vehicle to take computing to populations that until now have been excluded. " 10:52:53 PM
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Electrovaya - Powerpad:
Laptop extender batteries that fit under the unit and supply power for "up to 12 hours" when fully charged. $200-500. 5:21:22 PM
SunWize Portable Energy System: "The SunWize Portable Energy System converts sunlight into electricity, allowing the user freedom to recharge a handset or other portable device anywhere the sun shines. The system is lightweight, weather-resistant, highly durable, .. UL listed, CE certified and has a system output of 8.5 watts. Built into the product is the patented SunWize OPTI-Meter LCD metering system that instantly measures sunlight intensity and allows optimum placement of the panel. The SunWize Portable Energy System is designed for daily field use. The 9.9 watt solar panel is constructed using a proprietary process in which the highest efficiency, single-crystal photovoltaic cells are permanently encased in rugged, weather-resistant urethane plastic. The panelís nine-foot cord winds on a spool recessed into the back of the panel. A hinged metal stand folds flush into the panelís back side. " Can output a variety of voltages. Can be combined with a second panel to double output. Price currently about $360.
Or, on a larger scale, The EN-R-Pak solar-powered portable power generation system, 50w panel bundled with battery to deliver 200w maximum, for about $2200. 5:17:07 PM
DIGITAL LITERACY FOR DEVELOPMENT PROFESSIONALS
: Announcing a new online course, "Digital Literacy for Agricultural Professionals": "A growing number of agricultural professionals now have Internet access but many are not quite sure what resources this makes available, how to best access these resources, or how to use the Internet in support of their work or to develop themselves professionally. This course is designed to help learners overcome these uncertainties" 10:29:27 AM
Design that Matters
: "DtM acts as bridge to bring problems identified by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the communities into the classroom for university engineering and business students to tackle in their courses and research. " Affiliated with MIT and a design course there. 10:27:56 AM
Sunday, September 12, 2004
describes a mobile WiFi cloud experiment during Strong Angel II: "The Pony Express was nothing more than a Chevy SUV, housing a Groove Relay, a yagi mast, and a 5-watt in-line linear amplifier between the PC's WIFI card and the yagi. The vehicle was driven in a large circle linking three camps, much like the [refugee] camp described above, spread across the big island. These camps had personnel with laptop computers and WIFI capability, but no uplink to the internet. As the Pony Express was driven into each camp, the devices would detect the mobile cloud and dispense their locally cached Groove payloads, while taking in messages that were housed on the relay from the other camps and from others around the world. The Pony Express moved from camp to camp, and to the base camp where the internet was available. ..
Actual applications were distributed to these far flung camps. From the base camp in Kona, we created a Rapid Assessment capability using the Groove Forms tool. The Pony Express was able to actually DELIVER the application to those in the field without any IT intervention. The space was created; the form added; and invites sent. Upon acceptance in each camp, messages were delivered back to the inviter and the space/application was delivered using the Pony Express. Subsequent data was delivered back to base camp automatically. It just worked." 11:31:52 PM
Friday, September 10, 2004
Wikipedia Reputation and the Wemedia Project
: The rationale for the value of Wikipedia and other open-modification resources. Describes one test where a dozen errors were introduced, and all were corrected within 3 hours. Reminds me of "single text" conflict resolution, open source intelligence, and the codification of traditional knowledge. As long as there are enough authors paying attention, it may work for capturing collective knowledge. 11:23:24 PM
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Internet prods Asia to open up: "in China, where the government has mounted a huge effort to filter Internet content. The "Great Firewall of China" is manned by at least 30,000 censors who blocked as many as 50,000 websites in the first half of 2002, according to a US State Department report on China's human rights. Just this week, Beijing introduced stringent penalties against purveyors of Internet pornography, including life imprisonment for those behind major sites that receive more than 250,000 hits. "Pornographic" is left undefined. ..
China's massive firewall is already showing cracks under the weight of the Internet's expansion. The pressure has come from innumerable sources, including an onslaught of weblogs, open-source directories, and projects like Wikipedia, an "open-content" encyclopedia. Five years ago in China, most Western newspaper websites were blocked from viewing. Today, the Chinese censors who watch the Internet target more specific sites - chat forums on ultrasensitive topics like Tibetan liberation and the Falun Gong religious movement.
So while the average Chinese still can't walk into an Internet cafe in Ningbo and pull up the homepage of the Taiwan government, he can read The New York Times. Even some sensitive topics, surprisingly, are readily available in China. A quick browse through Wikipedia's Chinese-language version for the "June 4, Tiananmen" entry offers a broad look at the Democracy movement of 1989 and its violent end. Without using any special software or proxy servers, a Chinese web user can view the famed photo of a lone man facing down tanks outside the square 15 years ago in Beijing. ..
Despite its firewall efforts, the Chinese government is not stopping people from buying PCs or signing up for cheap Internet access. The country has an estimated 87 million Internet users this year, nearly four times the number in 2000, according to the data website www.internetworldstats.com." Of the world's internet users, 32.1% are now estimated to be Asian, 28.1% European, and 27.9% North American.
Fewer Asians live on less than $1 a day: "In a new report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says the number of people in Asia living on less than $1 a day fell by 223 million between 1990 and 2002. China accounted for 3 out of 4 of those whose incomes rose above a level classified as "extreme poverty" by economists. .. Ifzal Ali, chief economist of the ADB estimates that by 2015, provided this growth is sustained, the number of Asians living extreme poverty could fall as low as 150 million, down from 690 million in 2002. ..
The growing gap [between rich and poor] is particularly evident in India. A booming software industry has sprouted office towers and gated communities, while the number of people living on under $2 a day actually rose 17 percent to 840 million through 2002. ..
Access to land, clean water, education and healthcare are also crucial to the fight against poverty. The ADB chides South Asian governments for failing to invest in public services. .. "People are no longer willing to be patient for trickledown growth. They want a better life and they want it now," says Ali. "Governments must be sensitive to their issues or they will be tossed out."" 10:21:45 PM
Thursday, September 02, 2004
New Ideas for Emerging Markets: Cellphone micropayments for the BOP: For cell phone operators, "mature markets [are] near saturation, and carriers must develop new strategies to reach low-earning customers. Carriers in emerging markets often find quick early success by catering to customers at the upper end of the local income scale, but at some point, they have to start looking a little lower down. While they'll still go all-out over those top-tier customers, operators must also figure out a way to remain profitable at the low ARPUs generated by low-income subscribers. ..
Smart Communications in the Phillipines and several other Asian carriers have proved, raising subscriber figures and revenues by letting users refill their prepaid accounts with electronic micropayments. Smart users used to have to buy refills of a minimum of 100 pesos (about $1.75), but the lower limit is now just 30 pesos. .. Now, users buy the smaller refills from one of Smart's 500,000 resellers across the country, who then updates the user's account with an SMS.
The smaller refill amounts, along with the negated need to print scratch-off refill vouchers, cut Smart's costs by 300 million pesos ($5.3 million) in its first six months and helped the company add a record number of subscribers in the second quarter. Indonesian carrier Indosat is also using the electronic micropayments, and says it will add more subscribers this year than it first estimated since the system helps attract new lower-income users." 12:12:20 AM