Sudhakar Chandra wrote:

> This brings to mind something that the satellite radio outfit WorldSpace
> is doing. The idea is brilliant, in my opinion. You basically buy this
> satellite radio (approx. $70-100 depending on model). You also buy a
> computer card to interface with the radio. For a fee (that includes the
> card free) of approx. $40, you get unmetered limited internet access.
> The access is limited in the sense that you are restricted to a few
> WorldSpace "approved" websites. This would work great if WorldSpace
> expanded the list of approved sites to include those like Yahoo mail and
> Hotmail. Unfortunately, they don't. For most people, getting cheap
> access to a web-based email system like Yahoo mail is a good start.

I have greatly appreciated this thread of the conversation and the
insight that so many of you have given me. I would like to respond to
the mention of WorldSpace technology and to the benefits of being able
to provide some level of information to those who are not soon to
receive the benefits of WiFi, VSAT or new emerging technologies because
of either high cost or government regulation. I work at an organization
called First Voice International <>, a small NGO
based in Washington, DC, which was given 5% of the WorldSpace satellite
network that covers the entire continent of Africa and much of Asia and
the Pacific. This satellite network is able to broadcast digital radio
and data to small hand held receivers that cost between $70-$150. At
First Voice International, we have used this 5% capacity to develop a
24-hour audio service called the Africa Learning Channel, which deals
with pan-African issues such as HIV/AIDS, poverty alleviation, youth
leadership, gender issues, food security and others. First Voice also
has a data service that allows one to connect their digital radio to a
PC or laptop using a $90 adapter anywhere under the footprint to
download content at 64kbps. First Voice then partners with NGOs, CBOs,
government agencies and community radio stations who can use this
equipment and content to impact the maximum number of people through
organized listening groups, informing intermediary service providers or
through rebroadcast on one of the 194 partner community radio stations
in Africa.

This is not a two-way system and one cannot send emails, but what First
Voice has done is to partner with organizations that have relevant
web-based content that they currently cannot get to remote users because
of lack of or the high cost of connectivity. One example of how this
system has had actual impact on the ground throughout Africa is the
RANET Project. This project, honored at the WSSD last year, is an
international collaboration funded by USAID-OFDA and is partnering with
US NOAA and African Meteorological Agencies continent wide and is now
expanding into Asia and the Pacific. The RANET Project was designed to
make weather, climate, and related environmental information more
accessible to remote and resource poor populations. Initially, this was
attempted through the Internet, but it soon became clear that sending
digital images, animation and other memory intensive files simply was
not possible even to capital city offices, not to mention more remote
extension workers. Now through a partnership with First Voice
International the RANET Project is now sending all of its content on a
reliable, low-cost dedicated line to partners in 35 African countries in
the capital cities, secondary towns and rural areas. Additionally, every
site that has the equipment also receives the content from all of First
Voice's other projects including medical journals articles, agricultural
best practice information, news, community radio support materials and
much more.

I completely agree that there always needs to be a feedback loop built
into any project. What we are currently doing is using a hub and spokes
model where one site has a connection to the Internet (usually dial-up)
and can email feedback, but this has generally been very expensive and
unreliable. Where this is not available, First Voice is also using
telephone, snail mail or face-to-face communications as appropriate. 
However, we are always looking for a low-cost low-bandwidth connection
primarily for email use that can be used in remote areas throughout
Africa and Asia and will not require excessive government licensing. If
anyone has any suggestions of these technologies I would greatly
appreciate it.

Aaron Sundsmo 

Aaron Sundsmo 
International Programs 
First Voice International 
(formerly WorldSpace Foundation) 

Tel: 202-861-2261 
Fax: 202-861-6407

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