Bridging the Divide…

One of the things that has been worrying me is the great divide in access to the Information Society between the haves and have nots.

Nowhere is this more prominant than in the Developing Nations.
There are, luckily, moves afoot to change this by making cheap WiFi enabled PC’s available to all children, but this would only link the children to each other.
They would still be excluded from the vast resources available to us who are fortunate enough to live in the Developed nations.

I was pondering this issue the other day. Realising that it would cost far too much to run fibre to these remote, and poor, communities.
no one, not even the UN who are funding the wind-up laptops, would fund such an exercise.
I was aimlessly watching one of those The Ultimate 10 … shows on Discovery. [One of the few channels with interesting content nowadays]
The show was The Ultimate 10 Technological Inventions.
I never got to see number one.
At around number 8 they started to talk about the Solar Cell.
They neglected to mention the photovoltaic effect was discovered by a Frenchman, but they did talk a lot about it’s first commercial use.
It was this that made my ears prick up.

The story goes like this;

AT&T in the ’50s wanted to put telephones into remote rural communities in the USA. In places like Montana people were thousands of miles away from the main communication trunks.
To wire these communities up would have cost a fortune.
The egg-heads at Bell labs worked out they could use radio waves to send the telephone signals instead of wires.
But then each of these relay stations would need a diesel generator to generate power, and keeping them refuelled would cost the earth.
Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say, and so the egg-heads developed the commercial solar cell to power these relay stations.

This was an epiphany to me.
I suddenly saw how we could cost-effectively connect up these Developing Nations to the Information Society.
It is so simple.

  • Have a small, solar powered, broad-band, satellite-internet connection.
  • Wire this up to an array of WiFi nodes broadcasting on ALL the available channels.
  • Make sure the WiFi footprint is about 1-2km.
  • Plop this in the center of the remote community.
  • Give the $100 laptop-to-every-child.

As the laptops are wind-up, and the shared internet-connection is solar powered, you could effectively wire up ANY community in the whole world to the Information Society.

The Information Society is moving to an immersive experience.
We can not let anyone get left behind just because they live in either poor or remote communities.
The more people who contribute to the Information Society the richer and more beneficial it becomes.

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