Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] What's on the Horizon?

2003-11-26 Thread Mullinax, John (J.)
I think what Allen is speaking of here can be generalized:

IMHO, ICT is a tool (or more accurately, a very large suite of tools)
that can be used to achieve a wide array of goals. It is not more, and
it is not less. Tools have been around for thousands of years, and
though the implementation of ICT tools can sometimes be on the cutting
edge, we have collectively accrued a large body of wisdom to help us
understand how to use tools, and the opportuntities and limitations they
present to us. Two of my favorite pieces of wisdom about tools:

* It is a poor workman who blames his tools.
* If you're only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Broadband connectivity, telecenters, PC recycling, etc. all have their
place, but they are in the end only tools. We do a disservice -- to
ourselves and the people we hope to help -- if we attempt to provide an
ICT service or capability without a very clear understanding of the
underlying needs we are trying to meet. A very clear understanding of
the end goals, and the priority of these goals, is critical to choosing
the correct tools.

What we must strive for in the future, and what I think we will see, is
an increasing understanding that we must carefully select the tools we
use based on the problems we are trying to solve. Moreover, we must
recognize that in almost all cases ICT tools alone will not be
sufficient. We need to do a better job integrating ICT into the rest of
our activities as a valuable component, but not as an end itself.

John Mullinax

Al Hammond wrote:

 I agree strongly with Simon Woodside's answers--experimentation, more
 modern technology, and broadband. But I was also struck by what another
 contributor said, e.g. Find successful and sustainable activities.
 Replicate. Get constraints out of the way. Get funding on the right
 basis. Let the demand pull what is wanted. I think the aid community
 should continue experimentation, but also be willing to fund scale-ups
 of apparently successful models--yes, that would include those that have
 a business model--even to the point of making equity investments or
 funding additional training and social networking that leverage a
 private sector enterprise and its network.  There are beginning to be
 some successful models, many of them driven by the private sector, and
 some not aimed primarily at connectivity, but at an agricultural
 solution or a microfinance solution or a health solution. Nonetheless,
 they will spread access perhaps more rapidly. See our case studies at

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Re: [GKD] Making Computers, Software, Bandwidth Affordable (India)

2003-02-25 Thread Mullinax, John (J.)
Promising ideas. Not unique by themselves, but the first time I've seen
someone actually attempt to put them all together. The key questions:
1) Where do you start?  and 2) How to get critical mass?  I certainly
won't claim definitive answers, but here are some thoughts:

1) Start with the client machine -- the cheap PC, the network computer,
whatever you want to call it. You can't deploy many in the beginning,
but you have to have this designed and operational in some fashion. 
This needs to include network access. Vanilla 802.11b (wi-fi) is
probably not right. See for one solution that turns wi-fi
access points into a wireless mesh, bottom-up network using freely
available software to control off-the-shelf access points. Include some
kind of microphone and speaker capability, and Voice over IP voice
communication service (i.e., a telephone system) can be made available
to all on the mesh.

These networks -- or any peer-peer bottom up network based on 802.11
will only be able to access the public Internet if one of there is a 
gateway hooked to the Internet -- and all the usual fees apply
(bandwidth and/or equipment, etc.).  This solution does not
automatically yield affordable Internet access.  Internet prices will
fall, and can be made cheaper, of course.  And naturally it should be
pursued.  I'm only suggesting the system should be constructed to add
value to the users even if Internet access was down, or unavailable to
some users due to costs.

This leads to the second question:

2) A critical mass of content for users to access needs to exist to make
the appliance/service useful. The Internet can not necessarily be
relied on to provide this. And the Application Service Provider (ASP)
model especially requires application content (i.e., spreadsheets, word
processing, etc.). One way to get the mass needed is to focus on the
utility applications that made computing and the Internet so valuable in
it's early days. First, email for all machines connected to the
wireless mesh (the bottom-up network). Even if Internet connectivity is
not available or remains expensive for some time, this will provide
exponential value as more client machines are connected to the mesh (a
village at a time, perhaps?)

Second, word processing, spreadsheets, small database applications, etc.
With the proper training, these can provide productivity enhancements 
for small businesses that might not otherwise use computers at all.

Third, games -- and networked games. This gets the younger generations
engaged and familiar with the technology so that they have shorter
learning curves with other applications as they grow up.  (Just make
sure they don't overwhelm network capacities or require cutting edge
video cards/memory in the client machines!).

Finally, make Internet style content available within the mesh.  Enable
people with client machines to build and manage sites (centrally hosted
for most, but distributed hosting is possible if people have the proper
equipment and meet appropriate guidelines). Deploy and host more
sophisticated content on behalf of the users. It could someday be the
world's largest intranet -- and be a valuable resource for many even if
the price of public Internet access never falls into the price range of

My very best to you.

John Mullinax

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