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Why Hackers could, and should, be interested in ICTD. -kurtis
Computing in the developing world is a ramshackle affair. Various software packages are mixed together on ancient machines running unpatched versions of Windows 95 or XP. Power and network connectivity are erratic. Multiple users sharing one computer is the norm. User experience varies from expert to complete unfamiliarity, and the native language of many users is so obscure that even Google has no database for it.
TIER is in Doha! If you are in Doha, too, presumably for the ICTD2009 conference, come meet our colleagues and check out everyone's demos and posters. Alas, the workshops have already happened (woohoo, TIER people featured in all three workshops, with me in the Curriculum workshop, Matt Kam and Divya in the Young Researchers' Workshop, and Rowena organizing the "What is Research" workshop), but you still have time see the posters and demos:
And of course don't miss the TIER ICTD papers:
If I'm good I'll take notes during the keynotes and post them on my blog. =) In the meantime you can download the proceedings temporarily from the ICTD2009 website (warning I think it is 35MB). Melissa
A recent article mentioning TIER about Umar's project in Pakistan..
Monday, August 18, 2008
Spare Some Bandwidth?
Pakistani scientists have a way to boost download speeds.
By Mason Inman
Internet access is growing steadily in developing nations, but limited infrastructure means that at times connections can still be painfully slow. A major bottleneck for these countries is the need to force a lot of traffic through international links, which typically have relatively low bandwidth.
Now computer scientists in Pakistan are building a system to boost download speeds in the developing world by letting people effectively share their bandwidth. Software chops up popular pages and media files, allowing users to grab them from each other, building a grassroots Internet cache.
In developed countries, Internet service providers (ISPs) create Web caches--machines that copy and store content locally--to boost their customers' browsing speeds. When a user wants to view a popular website, the information can be pulled from the cache instead of from the computer hosting the website, which may be on the other side of the planet and busy with requests. Similar services are offered by content distribution companies such as Akamai, based in Cambridge, MA. High-traffic sites pay Akamai to host copies of their content in multiple locations, and users are automatically served up a copy of the site from the cache closest to them.
I meant to post this a while back (like 3 weeks ago when the announcements first started coming out), but this is interesting and relevant for a lot of us playing around in the Ghana telecommunications arena:
Vodafone in Ghanaian mobile deal http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7487821.stm Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 14:41 UK Mobile phone firm Vodafone is to expand its presence in Africa by buying a controlling stake in Ghana Telecom for £452m ($900m).
I'm not sure what this means. My first question (almost selfishly) was whether Vodafone would continue the program enabling doctors to talk to each other for free on OneTouch lines (courtesy of Brian Levine from NYU and Mr. John Annoh Quarshie from OneTouch). But the larger order questions are ones of management - how much upheaval will Vodafone bring to GT? Will it be more of the same years of mis-management (constant re-organizations, blame shifting, and strategic monopolistic practices aimed towards, well, understandably, maintaining their market control), or will Vodafone use GT's strategic position wisely and maybe actually stimulate healthier telecommunications growth in Ghana? Good or bad for Vodacom? Good or bad for Ghana? Well, I personally think it's a mix. Ghana's opposition party thinks it's a bad deal and the parliament blocked approval until the next meeting in October - possibly trying to hold out for Ghana's presidential elections in November. Their reasons? I don't know what the real reasons are - maybe Eric O or someone else in Ghana can speak to that - but the article says they want to hold out for more money. I hate hearing that from politicians - but in Ghana who can trust the businessmen to actually strike fair deals? In the long run, though, I think the cash is less important than the change of management (and perhaps the shares), and I don't know enough about Vodafone to know what tidings this holds for Ghana as a whole. I do think that this is really interesting from the perspective of the multi-national company diving into african mobile market fray. Buying out the entire national monopoly dsl/landline/mobile company seems a bit drastic, especially given GT's history. But given their progress on DSL broadband provision in the past year, I can't say this is a bad move. While I was there, they managed to expand to Takoradi, Cape Coast, and Tamale, covering three additional regional capitals within a span of just a few months, and simultaneously wiping out the ISP competition in those markets. From a mobile communications standpoint, Vodafone's acquisition of GT might be coming at a good time, closely following the heels of MTN's recent acquisition of Areeba (formerly known as Spacefon). Jump on the Bandwagon. What the newspaper articles really fail to say, then, is that Vodafone is not just acquiring the mobile division of GT (aka OneTouch, the third largest mobile provider, and sometimes the most reliable, if there is coverage), but Vodafone's acquisition (if approved by Parliament) would also cover the rest of GT as well. And this is strategic. GT controls the international long distance market, access to the SAT3 submarine fiber link, and most of the DSL broadband market, as well as 90% of the landline market. $900m for a controlling stake in a telecommunications company that serves 22 million people actually would seem pretty cheap, if I didn't think that the company was in deep need of a management overhaul. Last time I checked, they were months behind on connecting to the Ghana Internet Exchange because they were doing yet-another company re-org, and couldn't decide who was in charge of it. So I'm undecided on whether this is a fair deal or not for Ghana, but I do think that change might be a good thing! Anyways.. news of interest, a couple of editorial remarks. We'll see what happens in October!
Well, we just finished our first week at the school! It's been a really busy week for us as we and the students got acquainted with each other, but it was really exciting for the team as well as the students. Some of the team were already acquainted with the school due to the February field study, but for many of us, this was our first time. Here are some of the highlights from my perspective.
The kids were really excited to see us! When we arrived the kids were waiting for us at their main gate. You can see from the photo above that one of the girls even started climbing over the gate! They were so adorable! As we approached, the students had their hand outreached ready for a shake and a 'Hello, Uncle". I have to admit, however, that when I first saw this, the thought of my hand, in all its american hyperhygenic glory, making contact with their's was less than appetizing. Don't even get me started on how I felt when I realized they also wanted to plant a nice wet kiss on my hand as well... Anyways, all these worries are now at ease as I grew more comfortable with the kids and settled into their world (that, and I'm now packing hand sanitizer).
One of the jobs I've taken up here is to be the group photographer, which is awesome because I get to capture everything that's going on! And boy do the kids love it! They will do anything for a photograph. Above is a picture of one of our favorite students sweeping away, hoping that it grabs my attention (he obviously knew how to play his cards).
Everyday, since then, 99% of what the students say goes something like this
"Uncle, one photo. Please, uncle, one photo. One photo, Uncle, one photo. Please.. pleeease.."
Then I eventually cave in and take their photograph, and the kids come running toward me to see their photo on the digital screen... Above, you see the kids screaming and jumping for a prime spot as they know Aish is about to capture a photo. I thought I might secretly take out my camera to capture this, but the kids are sly and knew almost right away as you can see them running toward me.
One of the few pieces of equipment we let the kids play with are the tripods and they LOVE playing with these things. Considering the tripod is relatively complex (c'mon, admit it!), these kids figured it out in record time assuming they have had limited exposure to what this strange device actually does. Here again, the camera comes out, and all the kids run to pose.
Once I realized the power I had with my camera, I used it to my advantage. Instead of the screaming mass of kids that normally greeted the camera, I got them to all line up neatly single file before I agreed to take a photo. If the act of getting a bunch of primary school kids to line up single file isn't proof enough of the awesomeness of this power, perhaps the fact that I gave all my instructions in English is (remember, the kids only know Kannada, their native language). Isn't that amazing?
During downtime, the students sit outside and busily working on their homework on the ground. Of course, they can make some time for a quick snapshot :)
Anyways, the team is having a GREAT time out here. We have plenty to say, so you'll be hearing from us again real soon!
Added June 14, 5:15pm -- I totally forgot. The title of this blog entry comes from their fondness of this typical american greeting. They love it so much that they will say it, even they already know your name. This posting+more listed at http://bidtierindia.blogger.com