This blog has detailed some parts of the Village Base Station project. Our goal is a cellular network designed to to be operated by small-scale organizations and NGOs. We're specifically interested in supporting community; making cellular networks that no longer just bring the outside world into your home but also bring your neighbors closer together. Finally, after months of preparation, hacking, tree climbing (not by us, unfortunately), flying, getting stuck on bad roads, and negotiatation with carriers... The Village Base Station is open for business.
We’re in Desa, a small town in Papua, Indonesia, setting up TIER's Village Base Station, a low-power, low-cost GSM network designed for rural areas. While we're also interested in things like building locally-relevant and useful services for the users of our networks, one of the main values of bringing cellular phone service to a place like Desa is connecting people to the outside world. Being able to make a phone call or send an SMS to Wamena, the nearest large town, can save a day's worth of travel and a large amount of money.
I was recently at the Internet at Liberty conference in DC, where inter net activists (i.e., activists who use the inter net) congregated and discussed mechanisms for dealing with surveillance and monitoring by telecommunications companies. Particularly, I was demoing my own "Evil Basestation" project (built on OpenBTS), which teaches activists what the network knows about them and how it gathers than information.
Kashif Ali and I recently put together a video demonstrating some of the technology we've developed to enable extremely low-power GSM cellular infrastructure. That video is available here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8PElVGDe5M It's a very technical discussion, so you may be lost if you're not already involved in GSM/Wireless. We're thinking of producing a simpler video in the future.
In collaboration with the Papa Legaba camp, TIER (@kheimerl and @shaddih and working with Tapan Parikh and Coye Cheshire) are going to be testing some of our ideas about community owned and operated networks (see our writeup on small-scale GSM networks for developing regions here) at Burning Man this late August.
Though we at TIER are all resting (or writing disserations) over this summer period, our friends at Mobile Active (MA) have recently psoted a writeup of a trip TIER took to MA a month ago. We demonstrated OpenBTS and the Village Base Station, showed a number of potential GSM attacks on handsets, and made a call through a VSAT link. It was a great time.
Here's their blog post: http://www.mobileactive.org/village-base-station-project
I've been thinking about crowdsourcing's application to development for a while now. Samasource is the most popular such system, but others exist (MobiWorks being the one I've interacted with the most). I've always had core issues with these systems, which have led to some epic debates (primarily with Prayag Narula of MobiWorks) in the iSchool's development seminar. My basic issues (that I can't take credit for) are simple:
As some of you may know, the MetaMouse project has been ongoing at Berkeley for a number of years now. The short version is that it automatically converts any single-user Windows XP program into a multi-user, cooperative application. MetaMouse is primarily targeted at educational games in areas with limited computer hardware.
As some of you may know, we've been working on a GSM Base Station (BTS) project here in TIER for a few months. This project is known as the Village Base Station (a.k.a. the "one GSM base station per approximately 500 people" project) and detailed in a white paper we published at NSDR a few months ago.
We're having the ICTD Social at B100 Blum Hall, UC Berkeley Campus at 5PM following the 4PM talk by David Green at the same location.
If you're around, please come and say hi!