SmokingGoat sez: If you participated in this discussion, please add / edit (including adding URLs!). If you didn't, but have comments, please add your name / nickname so we can follow-up.


Also, I'm arbitrarily suggesting a "RuralTech" tag - I dunno if it's already in use, and if there's a better one. Feel free to update this suggestion.


Strategies for the Developing World

Caveat: The group was admittedly enthusiastic but definitely not-representative, being largely tech innovators and thinkers from the developed world. Nonetheless, there was a lot of first-hand experience in various parts of the developing world - including non-urban, rural experience (Brazil, Guatemala, India, South Africa, Tanzania....)


(I came late into the conversation, but here is where I picked it up).

Wifi bus model (India):

Buses with normal several-village routes are equipped with Wifi and hard-drives. Every time they stop in a village, the Wifi connects to a local "server" and downloads and uploads (typically, about 20MBs worth of data). When bus returns to metro area, connects to a server that is connected to web. So email comes from web, to bus - bus gets to local villages, and downloads email. Locals use tech centre to access email (for example), repsond. Email sits and waits until bus comes and uploads data, and then continues on to web when bus gets to metro area.


Expanding idea, tapping into other existing models: Mobile tech units - perhaps digital storytellling.


Could bring technology tools, know-how / training

And own power(!)


Units could provide tools for locals to create own content

Video, web, other?

As well as share content - from other local venues

As well as international venues (i.e. stories from across the world, run by similar program...)

Mobile units could set up mobile "theatres" - laptop, projector, power....


Random business/ economic development idea:

Potentially - (in next few years) - ability to download short locally-created videos onto cell phones? (As wlel on web, for other "consumers")

Makers of videos might get incentive (reputation and/ or monetary)

Can partner with local (mobile?) companies, that provide add'l advertising on downloads


This conversastion led to another one in the afternoon, stemming form some of the potential hurdles, and pushing further into what we are hopign to accomplish. I personally wanted to find out how individuals in rural parts of the developing world could personally potentially gain from technology. So some oof this turned into fairly dreamy-style technology-futurism, but it was useful to push beyond the classic model of creating "telecentres" (community technology centers) via NGOs for job training, access, literacy, etc. These rely on government / civic funding and social programs - can technology become a simple tool for day to day users - and what would that be? I.e. how to get to ubiquity and usefulness, so that tech is not a changing force, but a tool for doing whatever people need to continue to do?

Big questions/ challenges


Obviously: ask people in these areas - but without representation, this was a brainstorming exercise, with several people who have spent time travelling and working in developing countries:

Classic answer: food, water, power, education (literacy), healthcare

Adding a computer isn't going to help....

Perhaps though: Many agrarian cultures are facing challenges because of lack of voice; people know how to grow their own food, but local and national policies can affect things like crop prices, water diversion (think dams), displacement, lack of infrastructure, no investment in education or healthcare

So technology could provide voice? Nonetheless, this is the typical "technology is ultimately good for you" answer which doesn't get to real application or answers


Mobile / cell? But how power mobile with no electricity? Crank, car battery (pollution problems)

How can people in rural areas use mobiles for direct personal benefit?

Classic example: crop prices (MobileActive case study)

"Mechanical turk" tasks

Become individual communication centres (i.e. rent-a-phone) - Grameen phone-women case study

Data collection (health agencies) with mobile-device apps


Some of these solutions can work because people get paid by oversight agency - but can people get paid "remotely" - i.e. Western Union model? How would a system like that work? (i.e. how to prove identity and then prove the tasks you've performed on a mobile). Have "payment centres" that can verify ID and payment status


Unique situation/ strategy: Labour is cheap and people need jobs - don't use technology to replace individuals. So solutions can rely on low-tech and high-human interaction (e.g. mechanical turk).


For example:

(Instead of wifi bus): Hard-disk / travelling CD model - using human labour to bring hard-printed data to various centres (for payment centres, info centres, etc).




Additional information/ food for thought:

$100 computer ideas - Microsoft is starting a "cheap lease" computer (i.e. cheap purchase price, and pay for online time). Nooooo! Do not expand system of indebtedness to developing world! (But already exists - In Brazil, clothing stores regulalry offer "pay in several installments" - even for day-today clothing (i.e. not high-end)


June 3rd Economist - detailed look at India's economy and infrastructure (form an admittedly fre-market capitalist point oof view)


Points of interest:



Being able to use mobile devices to offer (your own) content - and get payments for it: