Chat with us about incremental infrastructure (and more)
- I invite us all to a chat http://www.worknets.org/chat/ on Thursday,
August 9th, at 2:30 pm London time, 9:30 am New York time, about
"incremental infrastructure" and a proposal that I am working on with
Incremental infrastructure is a term that Ethan Zuckerman has recently
introduced. I share a quote below from his article. It's about
infrastructure that can be rolled out in Africa by focusing on the value
of a local network and then stitching together the pieces.
This is very timely for a proposal that I am working on. My first idea
is to create social software that would serve people with marginal
Internet access. Imagine living in rural Kenya and walking 5 km to use
an Internet cafe which might cost $3 per hour to participate in our
online networks. I would like our participants to be able to download
our weekly activity (about 1 MB of letters, chat, wiki pages) onto their
flash sticks and then read them on a used computer they may have at
home. Then write their responses (or do other kinds of knowledge work)
and upload that the next time they are online. This would let us work
much more effectively together.
One example of the business value of this connection is that they could
pursue low-capital knowledge-intensive endeavors such as setting up a
local wireless network. Such a wi-fi network could serve their local
needs even if it is not connected to the Internet. Wireless access
points (100 USD) and used computers (200 USD) can be gradually added to
the network so that it expands one kilometer at a time. Indeed, local
calls (and services) are more important for business than long distance
calls. Thus the local network would grow stronger and after a few
years it would hook up with the global Internet. Furthermore, local
skills and services would grow with the network and thus be well primed
for the global opportunities.
I invite us to join in our proposal.
http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?Offline How might we like to
participate? Also, I appreciate thoughts on who to approach that might
fund work on this (about $24,000). What business value might we
generate? Where might we start? And what are other examples of
incremental infrastructure that we'd like to see? Our lab is pioneering
the funding of small projects for 100 USD or so.
I'm very interested in our laboratory working closer with the Rising
Voices group. Perhaps we might host one of the Rising Voices chats?
That would be great.
Additionally, I'm looking for people who we might video Skype on Friday
and Saturday (my skype is minciusodas). On Friday, August 10, at 2:00
pm London time, 9:00 am New York time for about three hours our young
Lithuanian poet Tomas Taskauskas will investigate What is creative work?
and we will share ours and also try to create a song. Juan Carlos De
Martin of the European Union thematic network COMMUNIA for the Public
Domain will be there, too. Please join us! And on Saturday, August 11,
at 7:00 pm London time, 2:00 New York time for a few hours I will
investigate How might prayer in twos and threes provide a climate where
we might helpfully challenge others and ourselves? Benoit Couture will
join us from Canada. Perhaps we can pray together.
+370 (699) 30003
Building big, starting small by EthanZuckerman.
Conteh's project (Vodacom Congo, with 3 million mobile phone users and a
market valuation of $1.6 billion) offers a new model. While it's very
expensive to blanket a nation in mobile phone coverage, it's quite
inexpensive to build a single tower. With even one tower in a major
city, Conteh found that customers would queue up to buy phones, giving
him revenue to finance additional expansion. In an incremental
infrastructure model, each investment starts generating revenue quickly,
allowing an entrepreneur to finance more infrastructure. The
availability of mobile phones has had unexpected economic impacts.
Farmers check prices in the market before putting their harvests onto
trucks or boats for sale. Carpenters, welders, and other technicians no
longer need shops -- they have their tools and their mobile phones, and
travel to work where it is available. Leonard Waverman, a professor of
economics at the London Business School, has found that an increase of
10 mobile phones for every 100 people in a developing country leads to
an increase of 0.59 percent in GDP per capita. The existence of a
communications infrastructure benefits the whole economy. Governments
that encourage foreign direct investment -- especially investment from
their diasporas -- are more likely to see incremental infrastructure
develop. Successful Internet and phone projects suggest that there are
at least three common characteristics of successful incremental
* These projects are atomic: A small part of the infrastructure is
useful by itself, like a single mobile phone tower that allows people in
a single city to make calls to one another.
* The projects are financed in part by users, lowering the costs for the
operator: Mobile phone users buy their handsets and Internet users
purchase their own computers.
* Finally, these projects are providing capabilities that weren't
available before: they're new services, not an upgrade of existing systems.