Re: [GKD] RFI: How Can A Grassroots Project Obtain Financing From Private Donors In Rich Countries?

2005-06-29 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 6/24/05, Gena Fleming wrote:

 Currently, people in need of funding need to do quite a bit of sleuthing
 to find funding sources. Can we create an alternative? I am imagining a
 website which showcases a diversity of projects through photos and brief
 descriptions (women's rights, sustainable water purification,
 permaculture, medicinal gardens, etc.) so that individuals who want to
 donate can get an overview of a diversity of sustainable projects around
 the world and choose specific projects they would like to donate
 directly to, without the mediation of individual foundations. I think
 this would serve the dual purpose of offering a new vision of a
 sustainable world, while helping donors feel more personally connected
 and involved with projects to which they are donating financial support.

It is definitely a great idea. From my experience, it is precisely the
'alignment' that takes place with individual mediating organisations
that results in some amount of dilution of purpose for the grassroots
players: your 'marketplace' (souk, bazaar, eBay) model provides an
alternative.

However, even that bazaar needs support - hosting, design, bug-fixing,
the main tech issues, and other broader issues like certification,
ratings, ancillary commercial issues and the like. We should discuss
ways and means of getting this off the ground in a workable manner.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] RFI: IT Training Curriculum for Rural Community Local Government

2005-05-23 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 5/20/05, Femi Oyesanya [EMAIL PROTECTED] asked:

 What ICT training curriculum do you then introduce to the leadership of,
 take for example, a tribe of nomads, so that he/she can begin to think
 of policies that will use IT to improve rural livelihood ?

I have been thinking about the essential dichotomy between our
urbanised, land-centric view of ICT and the cultures of nomadism. While
it seems true that the twain don't meet, it is also true that we need to
ensure that nomadism as a way of life not be allowed to vanish. To do
this, certainly nomads need to be armored against the creeping growth of
landowners.

Is ICT going to be another of those tendrils?

I believe not, provided the tools can be developed by and placed within
the controls of nomads themselves. But how can this happen, if the
landowning cultures are the only ones looking for ways to deliver these
tools?

Nomads too live by rules, only those aren't the same rules as
landowners. Current ICT propositions are based on the kind of rules with
which fixed-property societies exist. I fear neither hardware nor
software solutions exist that truly deliver intelligent edge devices to
people who aren't locked to land. I am not sure we have here on this
List people who were once from such cultures, who can at least opine
with some authority on such a topic. I hope I am wrong.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] Sneaking Up on the $100 Computer

2005-03-08 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 3/2/05, Sam Lanfranco wrote:

 There is no need to detail all these options here except to note that a
 significant, necessary, and important component to in-vehicle telematics
 is the need for voice-to-voice interaction between the driver and
 onboard systems. This is necessary for safe driving since using a
 keyboard, or giving attention to a screen, while driving, is not a good
 idea.

My 90 paise (IRs).

The keyboard of course, is hardly an essential I/O instrument or device,
considering the range of alternatives being developed in parallel
streams (think mobile devices, but also think of the large number of
devices being researched and developed for the severely disabled). I am
thinking, however, more about the screen itself.

There is hardly any good reason to consider that the 'screen' *not* be
the primary interface for observation of the external environment,
rather than the fairly useless, if not actually counterproductive,
square meters of glass that current vehicles use. Compare this with the
ratio of glass used in a modern aircraft, for instance. And also
consider that, at least in a fighter aircraft, the see-through glass is
also used as a reflective medium for I/O - the head-up display.

I think that future vehicles will use far more 'smart glass' as compared
to 'dumb glass' (ie the kind you just look through, and that does not
add actual value), and that this will have serendipitous results for
computing in general.

None of the above is intended to deduct from Sam's comments about voice
I/O.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] The $100 Computer: A Polite Scam

2005-02-23 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 2/22/05, Edward Cherlin wrote:

 On Thursday, 10 February 2005, Sam Lanfranco wrote:
 
 Dear Colleagues,
 
 The $100 computer for those on the other side of the digital divide has
 once again surfaced in what are mainly self-promoting (occasionally well
 intended) pronouncements from various quarters.
 
 You might enjoy (well, that isn't the right word, but never mind) the
 recent novel Air by Geoff Ryman, which describes the consequences of
 dumping every villager in the world on the Net without warning. Of
 course, it would be a disaster. That's why we don't plan to do it that
 way.
..snip...
 Yes, that's where the comparison with Air comes in. Just giving people
 computers and going away would accomplish less than nothing. Compare,
 however, the Grameen Bank program for placing cell phones in villages.
 The villagers are first brought up to a functioning level of literacy,
 then taught the rudiments of business and banking, and then they get to
 take out a loan, buy a phone, and start selling minutes. The same, but
 more so, is an absolute requirement for placing computers in villages.

That has always been the real stumbling block - whether it is through
the useless unstaffed and unhoused village schools of India, or the
political football schools in Pakistan, or elsewhere - there is little
incentive to bring literacy/education to the disadvantaged.

What sticks in the craw is the unstated assumption that *we* privileged
IT-aware people can, on our own, bring blessings to the *stupid*
untutored poor. This is why, at Radiophony, we advocate empowering poor
people with their own low cost, low power FM stations, where the user
devices cost under a dollar in real street prices, and the central
dissemination device under $50. At those costs, putting in the extras
(training, maintenance, economic wrappers) become feasible on a large
scale. Networking those inputs creates synergy and serendipity - who
better than the information users to tell *us* what the necessary
information devices should be? Or better still, learn to join *us* in
developing those devices.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] A Nigerian Farmer Using ICTs to Seek Information

2005-01-28 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 1/21/05, Scott Kleinberg [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 If there are no sources of used machinery, perhaps he could lease
 something -- using the funds he has to pay the lease for a specified
 time -- with an option to buy later at a specified price.  Often you may
 be able to apply some of the leasing funds to the purchase price. It may
 not be what he wants, but it may be what's available.

Just to let you know, India has very recently licensed the manufacture
of an indigenously designed small tractor. I need to do some research to
locate the details, but the design has been partly sponsored by the
Department of Science and Technology through its entrepreneurship
program (TePP). The machine is specifically meant for affordability -
small holdings are the norm in India, and such farmers have either been
left out of the development matrix or beggar themselves trying to hook
into 'shared resource' mechanisation (tragically, nature refuses to
cooperate with such well conceived schemes, and cussedly, all the
farmers in an area need to plow just about the same day).
-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] Should Developed Countries Subsidize the Internet for LDCs?

2005-01-14 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 1/11/05, Medard Gabel [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 A Thought experiment / Cost/benefit question:
 
 What would it cost (ball park estimate) to provide everyone in the world
 with broad band Internet access?
..snip...
 Building the high-speed wireless connection devices (or wired ones where
 appropriate and economical) will be a huge market and benefit (subsidy?)
 to the global telecommunications industry. Manufacturing the computers
 and/or Internet access devices in the developing countries where the
 products will be used would provide jobs, infrastructure, and
 technological expertise. Training the technicians for installation,
 maintenance, and upgrading of the network and its access technology
 would provide additional jobs and expertise to the developing country.
 Providing electricity for Internet access through solar cells and other
 decentralized energy production technologies would provide electricity
 for a host of other important basic human needs devices, such as
 lighting, water pumping, and refrigeration.

Please don't forget the very real cost of fixing legislation and
regulation that militates against low cost and collaborative networks in
developing countries (well, in developed countries too, but ).

The global telecom industry is geared to picking low hanging fruit, and
spends a lot of money on 'education' to ensure that local pricing
(extortionary) and competition (cartelised) remains convenient.

In India, for instance, although we have had an IX (internetworking data
exchange) in place for two years, its share of local traffic is
completely minimal due to bad policies - so ISPs pay international rates
for most emails and the local share of hosting is abysmal - and
consumers pay more. The total PC penetration remains incredibly low and
Internet usage pathetic - though most people think that India is a cyber
superpower - we are far from it.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] NGOs and Free Software

2004-12-24 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 12/22/04, Sam Lanfranco wrote:

 Many of these take place in areas where markets fail to work properly,
 in any event.

And where on this planet exactly do markets work 'properly', without
hedging them with consumer-protecting regulatory provisions?

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Win-Win Business Models

2004-12-03 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 12/1/04, Peter Burgess wrote:

 My current view is that we need to start looking very hard at how human
 resources in communities can be used best to produce the most ... and
 then market to get the most cash revenue  and at the end have the
 most value for the community as a whole.

I have probably said something like this before, and so have Lee Thorn
and others too, but the first 'we' in the phrases above gains immensely
in power if it (a) actually includes a large dollop of local
participation and (b) is seen to do so.

Doing that in practice involves long gestation periods for the first
project and the first success, and even later will continue to involve a
lot of engagement, as long as further money and skills are necessary.
Disengaging from making resources 'available', moving to the
self-sustaining replicable stage where resources are only 'listed', to
be made available against a negotiated demand, is the next level.

Very few corporations have the stomach for the long haul, or rather,
perceive that they do. The current trend towards short-term goals and
reporting that is sweeping the world, coupled with the growth by
acquisition of mega-corporations, is an unsettling portend. We need to
hear about and to help create more examples of what the genuinely
engaged corporations do, rather than what the well-heeled claim to do
(to the echoing kudos of an adoring media), if the possibilities of
win-win are to become truly replicable.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Win-Win Business Models

2004-11-23 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 11/19/04, Lee Thorn wrote:

 The hard work of the people in Phon Kham and elsewhere in Lao PDR cannot
 be over-emphasized. They defined the problems to be addressed, they
 searched for solutions that fit their situation, they helped us define
 and test their solution and worked hard to achieve permission for the
 first site, and we partnered with them to develop the business tools to
 make the project sustainable. This, I believe, is the most important
 information in this piece. End users defined the problem and helped
 solve it. We expect this in each implementation. End users are involved
 from day one.

Involvement in any leading edge kind of developmental activity is only
meaningful if knowledge and understanding is at a high level.
Unfortunately, most societies and communities have an enormous hangover
of half-baked knowledge (even this one, if we are willing to be
objective about the quality of our own posts). In the case of the
countries of the African and Asian continents, this is overlaid by the
colonial experience, one that encouraged the suppression of independent
thought and fostered huge dependencies.

I was struck by Lee's mention of a single village, and the clear
reference to time and patience, both of which lead inescapably to the
points I have made above.

For that matter, even if we step back and look at how US and European 
corporations (and there have been significant differences in approach 
within the two groups) have automated their business processes over 
the years using ICT, it is clear that there has a been a very long 
and gradual learning curve, punctuated by concerns expressed over and 
over about ROI.

How much more important then to exercise patience and expect long-term
engagement, if one is to meaningfully achieve anything in regions and
with peoples that have been kept out of the loop since time immemorial?
And top-down or trickle-down approaches just aren't the way, they tend
to exacerbate existing divides and differences that usually have
overtones of oppression and injustice.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] What is the Future for Cyber-Security?

2004-10-18 Thread Vickram Crishna
On Friday, October 15, 2004, Jim Burnham wrote:

 While the Macintosh OS is not exactly a new technology (more a niche
 technology unfamiliar to the majority of computer users), I feel that
 the Mac OS is a valuable 'tool' for helping protect both businesses and
 individuals from the flood of cyber-attacks that they have to deal with
 every day. Perhaps the donors, rather than spending huge amounts of
 money on virus protection, training, and recovery of systems and
 networks once they are attacked, should help developing countries
 purchase Macintosh's. The initial up-front cost differential (Macs tend
 to be more expensive than PC's) will be more than made up for by the
 considerable savings in support.

Both MacOS and GNU/Linux, unfamiliar through lack of hands-on exposure
to the majority of computer users, are largely immune to cyber-attacks
(I use MacOS myself, and am attempting to get savvy enough to use
GNU/Linux) but this is (mostly) not because of superior technology.
Arguably, the donors should spend more money promoting GNU/Linux, which
is Open Source and mostly Free Software, thus reducing the cost of
acquisition tremendously. Support for most users is also free (note the
difference between capitalisations), and collaborative, which is good
for society in general.

Computers themselves are a niche technology, unfamiliar to and remote
from the lives of the vast majority of humans on this planet (I can't
;-) speculate about the humans who live off-planet). Yet their influence
is undeniable. It behooves us to seek ways to ensure that this impact is
mostly good, rather than mostly bad or mostly unknown, for that matter.

Creators of cyber-attacks follow the principle of low hanging fruit, and
therefore over 90 per cent of personal computer users who run MS Windows
are usually at risk from such attacks.

Cyber-attacks are a societal problem, and creating laws and battalions
of cyber-savvy law enforcement agencies is merely fire-fighting, not
getting to the root of the problem. The Net itself is global, while
different countries have different levels of openness and attitudes to
law making and enforcement. No single rule will fit all, I fear.
-- 

Vickram




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] What Are the 'Right' Resources to Foster Professional Development?

2004-06-24 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 6/22/04, Gary Garriott [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 I was happy to see this post advocating a return to the concept of
 development of basic supporting infrastructure.. My personal
 experience in rural development for more than a quarter century is that
 if people have the basic infrastructure and tools available, that their
 own innate creativity and entrepreneurial/survival skills will figure
 out how to use them. A few well-timed catalytic inputs by others (from
 the north or south or both) don't hurt either.

I have been forced by unreliable connectivity to stay out of adding my
two bits here for quite a while, through more than one challenging
question raised by the Moderator.

Within the general area of building a strong (and professional) base for
furthering societal growth, we (Radiophony) have researched and found
that the very cheapest form of ICT, for both content developers and
audience participants, is simple clear audio based FM radio. When
deployed for very small area chunks, FM radio costs less than one
hundred USD to set up and run for a while, not counting disbursement of
incentives to active local supporters. It is not difficult to see ways
in which local communities can value and support local radio, once it
begins. It is also not a difficult calculation to see that the little 
buck buys more big bangs.

Yet in many countries in South Asia, the overhang of colonial rule
(although long gone, more than fifty years back: a salutary thought in
itself) continues to view all use of radio as broadcasting. Most
officials appear to think that local FM is no different than the
propaganda that pours in from various Free
'This-People's-and-That-People's' Radio global sources on shortwave.
Actually, a lot of them don't even listen to radio anymore.

I echo Gary's feeling that a healthy dose of international support at
the level of mindset change will help. Our countries still, despite many
years of much healthier and approaching independent economies, cling to
notions that anything that comes from abroad (read: Western countries)
must be good. Hence McDonald's and Pepsi, Gucci and Armani.

I am aware that organisations such as UNDP and UNESCO have some
half-hearted attempts to promote independent radio in South Asia, yet
this has mostly been in the nature of either 'big' radio (attempting to
cover thousands of square kilometers at one go, in a false sense of
scaled economies), or endless conferences and workshops that have yet to
lead to policy change.

The dynamics of 'small' radio are totally different, far more involving
and far more likely to succeed as a vital component of local society.

I don't know what it is about the dynamics of the big organisations that
makes it difficult for them to champion small causes, but the lack of
such support is a factor in the slow penetration of positive change in
rural Asia.

-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] Community Learning by Radio and the Internet

2004-06-01 Thread Vickram Crishna

On 5/26/04, John Hibbs wrote:

 What would happen if micro radio would be so ubiquitous (and affordable)
 that children everywhere would have a frequent opportunity to be their
 own content developers? broadcasters? Wouldn't this activity compare to
 the piano recital? Christmas play? soccer game? How much value arises
 when the speaker knows that her grandmother is listening? or even the
 mayor? what internal value comes to those who have been on the
 radio?



What does it take to organise a reference demonstration of this simple
thesis?

Not much really - except that it would be quite illegal in most
countries, due to the same kind of thinking that has paralysed South
Africa (cf the article posted by bridges.org very recently on this list)
on the subject of WiFi and VoIP.


Here are the building blocks of micro-radio:


   * An inexpensive low power transmitter 
   * Antenna 
   * Microphone 
   * Recording device 
   * Editing device 
   * Playback device (may be the same as the recording device)


As I write this, I am listening to jazz on the radio, broadcast on the
Net by www.attentionspanradio.net and sent from my sound card to the
input jack of a tiny FM transmitter with a rudimentary antenna (their
d-i-y designs can be downloaded conveniently from
http:///www.radiophony.com, the Radiophony website), which cost a total
of IRs 200 to assemble, and the long-life rechargeable 12V battery which
powers it cost IRs 90. FYI, Rs 300 is approximately USD 6.5 these days.
The signal is just powerful enough to reach every room in the house.

For one account of what internal value really means, browse through
our website (Radiophony is promoted by Dr Arun Mehta and myself, both of
us are present on this list), where we describe the experience of
setting up India's first rural radio station (later shut down by some
bureaucrats). There are really no words to describe the thrill so
visible on the faces of villagers as they heard their voices on their
radio (in fact, they later named their station Mana Radio, which means
Our Radio in the local - Telugu - language). The station was powered by
a similar transmitter as the one I am listening through now, and with a
suitably placed antenna, every home (within half a kilometer from the
antenna mast) could tune in to their own village station.

But to return to the question raised by John Hibbs, what would it take
to 'scientifically' demonstrate the internal value? What would it take
to make radio ubiquitous and affordable?

By international agreement, the frequencies from 87.5 MHz to 108 MHz are
reserved for public broadcasting over FM. This fact has had a very
useful outcome, in that consumer FM radio receivers are extraordinarily
cheap in most parts of the world. This means that FM radio listening is
affordable, for the most part, but at the same time, the restricted band
of frequencies for the purpose has led to a commonly expressed fear
psychosis that the spectrum is a scarce commodity. Market forces usually
ensure that scarcity drives up prices, and in the case of FM broadcast
license fees or spectrum usage charges, this is true.

In the US, one of the world's heaviest users of spectrum in the FM band,
prices are sky-high, and the government has been stepping back from
protectionist measures that secured a place for public service radio.
Most public service radio frequencies are held by well-funded
organisations, while commercial radio has become massively dominated by
a very few media companies, and there does not seem to be much scope for
independent micro-radio to flourish, on the surface.

The reality is somewhat different.

Actually there are many 'pirate' stations that broadcast independent
content, and a groundswell movement that seeks to open the spectrum for
more micro-radio. The FCC has been forced to take note of the pioneering
study by the Prometheus Project (http://www.prometheusradio.org/) and a
hearing on Localism in Broadcasting will take place today (May 26) in
Rapid City, South Dakota. Sen John McCain is also expected to introduce
a legislation shortly to mandate bandwidth for low power radio.

Much more can be done to make the technology easily available.

The circuit on our website is not ideally temperature stable nor
filtered to a very high quality (US standards militate towards a
separation of 200 KHz between stations) - it was designed for low cost
and easy component availability.

What is needed is a handy circuit that can be easily tuned to lock onto
frequencies 200 KHz apart, encased in a simple, cheap and hardy box, and
an accompanying range of easy to build and tune antennae, so that
thousands of little stations can be set up within a few hundred meters
of each other, without the need for expensive one time use
instrumentation.

It won't take much to upgrade the technology of consumer level devices
to achieve the specifications outlined above - but someone must get down
and fine-tune them, and someone else must work out the best low 

Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] The Role of the Private Sector

2003-11-28 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 11/25/2003, Global Knowledge Dev. Moderator wrote:

 Many GKD members have argued that the for-profit private sector must 
 play a key role in expanding access to underserved communities. The 
 notion is appealing.

At the outset, let me state that I operate as an entrepreneur, mainly
because the regulatory environment for public trusts in India is not
very good. However, the work we do and the technology solutions we
promote are almost completely focused on developmental issues, and I do
not see any conflict of interest here. Of course, we don't make a lot of
money either, and that is because we find ourselves shut out from
several funding opportunities. I also have found some NGOs reluctant to
deal with a for-profit, because it affects their own funding proposals.

 1. What specific elements does a policy environment need in order to 
 encourage the private sector to expand access to poor, isolated, 
 underserved areas? Where do such policies exist?

The first part is a challenging question. To my mind, policies do not
drive access, demand does. Private companies will step in to supply
against demand if there is sufficient possibility of a profit in doing
so.

Having said that, policies can and do work to *prevent* such a supply
situation from being created, or even the demand situation. In India,
for instance, currently the use of VoIP with termination within the POTS
system (and that includes cellular and WiLL telephony) is banned, thus
depriving half a billion people from access to cheaper and possibly
affordable telephony. Without the experience of telephony, users are
deprived of the ability to demand, and providers to devise, more
imaginative uses for it (than POTS, that is).

 2. What lessons have we learned about the risks and rewards of 
 creating public-private partnerships to expand access to the 
 underserved? Where have these lessons been applied, and where have 
 they worked?

Businesses are driven primarily by the profit motive. Unless there is a
significant change in market mechanisms (and this is one place - perhaps
the only place - that policies can make a difference) this situation
will continue.

To look at lessons in expanding access, I can suggest the experience of
'community' radio in Nepal, where several stations have been established
in difficult areas, where opposing political groups routinely employ
violence to further their cause.

In India, several rural development groups are attempting to deploy
better microbanking systems, using a hybrid combination of physical
access and electronic data capture. In the absence of higher
availability of electricity and low cost computers and networks
(connectivity) this must be the only practical solution.

 3. What are specific, unexploited opportunities for public-private 
 partnerships to expand access to the underserved? Please provide 
 examples where these opportunities can be exploited effectively.

I have a little earlier suggested voice mail systems deployed over
smartphones using cellular and WiLL networks. To develop such a system
needs private-public partnering, even if the actual cost of software is
met through development in publicly owned facilities such as
universities. Actually, the cost of development is trivial, the
deployment needs a large investment, and I am not aware of any such
investment ever being made in the past by a public agency for promoting
access.

 4. What concrete lessons have we learned about stimulating/supporting
 local businesses to extend access to the underserved? Please be
 specific. Where have these lessons been applied effectively?

The example of hybrid microbanking systems is a very good one, I 
believe. The reports I have read indicate that users consistently 
exhibit better banking behaviour, with higher rates of savings and 
lower defaults on loans, thus stimulating local economies. Both men 
and women appear to benefit, often the latter more.

 5. Within underserved communities, women often face special 
 difficulties becoming ICT providers (e.g., lack of capital, 
 education, competing demands for time). Are there particular 
 approaches that can be used to support women entrepreneurs who want 
 to offer ICT access to underserved communities, beyond the 'Grameen 
 cell phone' model?

I have been told, verbally, that the private Reliance Infocomm WiLL
network in India has encouraged about 5,000 small entrepreneurs, of
which perhaps 20% are rural based, to use the phones as PCOs. No reports
have been published yet of this effort. However, where ordinary users
pay as little as Rs 500 (just over 9 euro) upfront for a phone with
connectivity, entrepreneurs under the scheme do not pay anything at all.
They also do not pay Reliance any commission, for billing of under Rs
250 per month. A call costs Rs 0.40 per minute (this was the cost, till
very recently, of a call within the Reliance network, anywhere in India,
but has probably gone up as a result of a regulatory change. The
organisation is 

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

2003-11-24 Thread Vickram Crishna
My two bits...

 1. What new high impact technologies are on the 3-year horizon? Who
 (exactly) needs to do what (concretely) to make those technologies
 widely available?

Optical frequencies communication for exceptionally low power, very high
bandwidth, short distance communications (line-of-sight) will be very
likely to emerge as a new low cost option, in both desktop (laptop) and
handheld devices.  To deploy it, far more effort will be needed from
grassroots social assistance program workers.

Voice based messaging software programs will also appear on handhelds,
enabling the Grameen model to be deployed much more effectively in other
regions of the world, where cellular and cellular-like systems are being
and will be deployed over the next three years.

 2. What's the most valuable area for technology development? Voice
 recognition? Cheap broadband delivery? Cheap hand-helds (under $50)?

The most critical area for technology development lies in the
digitisation and support of services in demand, not in hardware per se.
This is an exceedingly local activity, given that software development
by its very nature demands a huge level of interaction between
technologists and users.

In hardware, though, it is both cheaper broadband and handhelds that
need to emerge. Right now, in countries like India, the only really
cheap mobile handsets are obsolete ones, which do not support the kind
of operating systems that run such applications.

 3. Where should we focus our efforts during the coming 3 years? On ICT
 policy? Creating ICT projects with revenue-generation models that are
 quickly self-supporting? Demonstrating the value of ICT to developing
 country communities?

We need to evolve better funding models, that are better equipped to
evaluate and deliver funds to grassroots projects that are more
appropriate to the communities in which they are to add value. Trying to
opine here in this group about specific projects we get to know about
somewhere else in the world is both frustrating and patronizing.

 4. What levels of access should we be able to achieve by 2007 in each of
 the major under-served regions? Who (exactly) must do what (concretely)
 to attain them?

We need to get a foothold into these regions. And we need to have
funding in place that will support the growth of that foothold, driven
by local demand.

 5. What funding models should we develop over the next 3 years? Projects
 with business plans that provide self-sustainability? Support from
 multilateral corporations? Venture capital funds for ICT and
 development?

In a nutshell, none of the above. But see *3.*, for the glaring
weaknesses in these models make it impossible to choose between them, or
even to want to make such a choice.
-- 
Vickram





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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Misunderstanding Broadband

2003-11-07 Thread Vickram Crishna
Al Hammond wrote:

 WiFi networks already cover ranges of 100 miles or more,
 with repeaters and tuned anntennae--in Laos, in California, in India,
 and in many other places.

If it is happening in India, sadly, it is illegal. We are only permitted
to operate WiFi indoors. However, the definition of *indoors* has been
extended to include the physical area of a campus. 100 miles and similar
extended areas, while highly desirable, seems hard to believe.

--
Vickram





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Re: [GKD] RFI: Pico Hydro Power and ICT Deployments

2003-10-15 Thread Vickram Crishna
At 3:31 PM +0530 13/10/2003, Venkatesh (Venky) Hariharan wrote:

 Has anyone on this list come across a deployment of ICT specifically
 meant for powering computers in rural areas? I would be interested in
 hearing about this.

Venky - you have separately been in direct contact with Udit about using
relatively inexpensive solar power panels to recharge batteries that
will be part of a direct/alternating current supply for a computer.

This can be made to work in a real world scenario by distributing the
computers locally within a village (and not putting them in 'special'
cybercenters), connecting them using Wi-Fi locally. This means that the
network has to be grown outwards from one or more points within the
village, since Wi-Fi has an inbuilt signal strength issue.

Each node is self contained, and the responsibility for keeping them
powered up then becomes the users'. Panels for single computers are not
prohibitively expensive (TCO), unlike installations for complete
cybercenters, which then naturally become part of a bureaucracy.

It takes a bit more thought and effort to get such a network started,
but I think in terms of sustainability it is certainly a more attractive
proposition. In fact, the process of installation can also trigger off a
fresh growth industry - installation services.

-- 
Vickram



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Re: [GKD] RFI: Computer Donations To The Third World

2003-06-27 Thread Vickram Crishna
At 9:46 PM +0100 25/06/2003, Tony Roberts wrote:

 What we need to do is make an appropriate distinction between dumping
 and providing quality, fully refurbished, Pentium PCs into contexts
 where the appropriate capacity is already in place to make productive
 use of them. This means that secure and adapted premises, experienced
 staff and access to free or affordable technical support is in place.

A couple of posts here also suggesting that one via media is to do a
workaround with the computers sent to small businesses who will then
integrate their usage locally.

Donee schools can also do this, farming out the computers to local
businesses with the proviso that the machines be available to the school
during specified times (school hours, study periods) and be used for
whatever else (cybercafes, printshops, entertainment centers) the rest
of the time.

The problem with this is the fact that the donee schools are often run
by absentee trustees, who do not care often enough to see the big
picture. Whether they are private or public (ie commercial or government
run schools) finally the responsibility for imparting education must be
that of the local administration (teachers and principal).

Also not much point if the donor organisations make (well-meaning, but
well!) demands about end-usage that prevent the computers from being
used at all!
-- 
Vickram



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Re: [GKD] New Graph on ICTs in Africa

2003-03-10 Thread Vickram Crishna
This is just one more example of how things are structured AGAINST
development (by which I mean equitable distribution of wealth and
opportunity)... and anyone who raises a voice is labelled anarchic or
some other convenient socio-eco-political pejorative.

This graph refers to status quo in interconnectivity, whereas I am
relating here an episode in the fight for wireless spectrum in
broadcasting. However, I think that both broadcasting and
interconnectivity could do with freeing up of spectrum. This should
particularly be encouraged in developing countries, because the
situation regarding frequency usage is so different from the paradigm of
the North.

Last week at the AMARC conference I tried to have the World Association
of Community Radio Broadcasters endorse an appeal for freeing up
frequencies from excessive regulation, that certain low cost
technologies, such as low power FM, can use without creating global
problems in interference.

The main objections?

One: that freeing frequencies from regulation (that's not what I said, I
asked for local governance in such matters) is anarchic (sic).

Two: that the current governance of frequency usage is an international
agreement going back years, it works, and we should not propose any
change that 'they' will defeat as 'being anarchic' (which seems to say
that if it ain't broke, don't fix it - but it is broke. Many countries
have citizenry who are denied the use of this incredibly low cost medium
of local communication and information dissemination, one that even
illiterate people can manage with minimal (or no) assistance).

The final solution?

The Kathmandu Declaration, February 2003, now includes a clause that
reads: We call for regulation of frequency spectra for community radio
such that it favors the development of this medium for the use of local
communities.

It really in my opinion does not say much more than the status quo. But
still, it can be used as one more flag to wave when local government
policies are being discussed, and hopefully totally repressive
governments will find it easier to accept than asking for radical change
in the right of their citizens to information.

To further amplify the reasoning behind each phrase:

We call for the... : AMARC is a recognised international body supporting
the use of community radio in the development of civil societies.

..regulation of frequency spectra... : current status is to manage
frequencies at the central level. Except for advanced countries like
Germany, this is just about universal. There is no justification for
this situation in the use of public FM bands, where signal propagation
phenomenon is completely local.

..the development of this medium... : current broadcast technology
(pretty well 50 years old) is almost totally North centric and not
suited for many parts of the third world.

.. for the use of local communities. : This is to avoid the tendency to
hand out this frequency band excessively to commercial, religious or
political pressure interests.

The AMARC Kathmandu Declaration goes on to say (rather verbosely, I
fear), with regard to WSIS:

We therefore urge all the participants in the WSIS process,
particularly the government of Tunisia which will host the second
assembly, to recognize and support the role of community media in
providing spaces for people's voices to be heard in the formulation and
implementation of national, regional and international policies on
information and communication technologies and in the construction of an
information society which is globalized for the many rather than the
few. Further, this approach must extend beyond the WSIS into the
foreseeable future.


At 3:06 PM +0100 05/03/2003, Richard Gerster wrote:

 We invite you to have a look at our new graph at the homepage
 http://www.gersterconsulting.ch/fs/fs_news_graph.html on our latest
 graph: The Intercontinental Detours of Internal African Phone Calls

 Do you know? African telephone companies annually pay USD400 million to
 European and North American providers for internal African connections.
 We examine a phone call from Benin (Porto Novo) to Nigeria (Lagos) and
 compare it to an international phone call of similar distance from
 Switzerland (Geneva) to France (Lyon). Our graph is a contribution in
 view of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva,
 December 10 - 12, 2003, and in Tunis in 2005. The graph can be
 downloaded in English and German.


-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] World Computer Exchange Article

2003-02-19 Thread Vickram Crishna
At 1:11 PM + 13/02/2003, Pamela McLean wrote:

 We are exploring possibilities for equipping a community centre, such as
 getting computers through World Computer Exchange (WCE). Any advice or
 comments would be welcome.
 
 
 In the long term we recognise that there are good reasons for using Open
 Source, but we have no relevant experience. Obviously if we do get
 computers we will need technical support, and as available expertise
 favours Microsoft, we are likely to start with Microsoft.

I presume you mean the expertise available at hand. If Net based support
is an option, I suspect you will find that it is far better for Linux.
MS is always a backup option available to you since the computers you
get will probably have that preloaded.

 Our teachers' initial interest is not in teaching computer classes, but
 in the potential of ICTs for communicating and gaining information. For
 instance, Adebite Johnson wants to use the potential of computers to
 support his subject work. His most urgent thought is that somehow it
 might help him to improve the standards of the geography department,
 which is terribly under-resourced. He also wants to exchange information
 with other schools.

I have understood your concern about poor electricity and no telephones.
But if the latter is the reality, you will find exchange of information
a serious issue. One solution to this is Wi-Fi, an inexpensive
technology for broadband wireless connectivity between computers. Its
major limitation is distance, as effective bandwidth drops off seriously
fast over 20 km. Even to get this distance you need special antenna -
the technology was originally developed as an alternative to wired
Ethernet. Perhaps you should also look at downloading data on a regular
basis using Worldspace's Africa satellite. This may be the cheapest and
easiest way to regularly update your computers with information on
various subjects.

 Adebite Johnson can also access information on CD-ROMS, to
 share with his students, thanks to the OOCD2000+ field officer, David
 Mutua, and his laptop, Adebite Johnson will also be contacting groups
 such as SchoolNet and Teachers Without Borders through David, who
 currently travels a half day journey to Ibadan to do overnight
 web-browsing and email sessions on behalf of the project. (see thread on
 email for rural Africa)



  I think that Frederick's various
  concerns are perfectly valid (snip) he raises:
   What is the impact on recipients (snip) Are such
   gift-horses appreciated well, or simply abused and misused by
   recipients, who feel they've got the PCs in an easy way anyway?

 Even free computers would not be seen as 'easy'. OOCD2000+ has worked
 hard to get this far, laying all the foundations of the project, which
 ensure that it has excellent social capital.

Without social capital, as you say, you would not have got this far.
What lies next is harder: for you to sustain it and support it with
infrastructure so that the project does not become an insufferable
burden to the core team.

 We do have concerns about the level of
 technical support that may be needed, software costs, and the electrical
 power that will be needed to keep them running, but we will do our best
 to overcome these difficulties, just as we have done our best to
 overcome our previous and present difficulties.

Incidentally, I saw a mail just a couple of days back about IBM Linux
boxes costing only $199 retail now in the US. They need keyboard, mouse
and monitor to be full-fledged computers, which WCE can probably help
you with easily.

Are you looking at solar power or micro-hydel for the electricity
problems? We have some expertise with these technologies here in India,
and I can help put you in touch with developers. The best thing about
twinning your computer project with this technology is the fact that it
will be of help in so many more developmental areas for the people in
the immediate region.
-- 
Vickram




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Re: [GKD] Radio and ICT

2002-07-09 Thread Vickram Crishna

At 3:53 PM + 08/07/2002, Lynette Obare wrote:

 We need to be very cautious about how they get to be used in community
 and ensure that it does not marginalise women or those with low income.
 We also needs to consider women's gender daily calender and when to air
 certain programmes so that it coincides with the time they are at home.
 Without taking some of these intricate issues into consideration we risk
 losing an important target audience.

 Having been part of the Kenya Community Media Network that promotes
 different approaches in community empowerment, use of community radio as
 a tool has been hindered by licensing of airwaves. It also involves a
 lot of resources. We were also looking into the use of manual radios but
 we realised that these also required resources.

We have been trying to excite interest in very low-cost rural oriented
community radio initiatives. We have found that it is possible to get
fairly good reach in a small region (dia less than 1/2 km, about the
size of a typical village) using extremely low powered radio frequency
modulators feeding ordinary paired wire. This leaks enough power to
ensure that receivers in the vicinity of the wire can get decent
reception. Since leakage of power is intrinsic to any electric wire, we
maintain no explicit licensing is needed. In fact, if there is already a
local cable TV network in place, this can be used to carry the signals.

We use very low cost digital recording equipment to build the production
studio, thus the total cost of operation is also low. The remaining cost
is in the training of the people who will produce audio content on a
regular basis. We have successfully set up this kind of community radio
in India.

Please contact me off-list if you would like to have more details.
-- 
Vickram Crishna
ceo
Net Radiophony India Pvt Ltd
Wireless Freedom!
www.radiophony.com
how can I be of service to you without diminishing your degrees of
freedom? -- R. Buckminster Fuller




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Re: [GKD] Literacy -- A Forgotten ICT?

2002-06-24 Thread Vickram Crishna

Richard Labelle [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 I guess that this all depends on what is meant by literacy. Not being
 able to read and write does not preclude being able to develop, test and
 use technology and reading and writing may not be necessary to use some
 of the newer ICTs. People can afterall communicate orally and the use
 visual cues and messages, including drawings, to communicate.

Living and working in India makes one peculiarly alive to the need for
communications that are not language sensitive, or transcend language
sensitivity.

We (at radiophony... http://www.radiophony,com) have been struggling
with the creation of a software that will enable people with severe
physical difficulties to gain computer literacy, so that computers can
become very versatile AAC (assisted and augmented communication)
devices. In the process I do not think a single one of us (an extended
workgroup based in Yahoo Groups) has not realised with some force that
there really isn't much difference between helping those who cannot move
much and those who cannot use English. Once you have eliminated the
keyboard and mouse as a necessary adjunct of computing (interacting with
the computer), it is not a big step to 'junk' English either (in order
to get one's work done).

Much of the problems with traditional interfaces has to do with the need
to punch particular keys. This goes away when you have only a limited
number (as low as one) click devices.

Please contact me offlist if you would like to discuss this further. I
somehow think (empirically and intuitively) that this will have a huge
impact on our understanding of communications, going forward.
-- 

Vickram




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