The Includer Strategy: Year 2
- Ricardo and I spoke today by phone for ninety minutes about our
laboratory's strategy for the Includer and making the most of limited
Internet access in Africa.
Thank you to our African participants - Samwel Kongere, Kennedy Owino,
Fred Kayiwa, Peter Ongele, Kofi Thompson, James Njunge, William Wambura,
Wendi Losha Bernadette, Joseph Runnel Lule, Betty Kyewa, Josephat
Ndibalema and many more! - for giving our Minciu Sodas laboratory such
great vitality around the world.
We're impressed at your enthusiasm to overcome challenges - traveling
miles to the Internet cafe by foot, bus or taxi - paying $1 an hour or
$100 a month - waiting your turn, suffering power outages, slow bandwidth,
worrying about coming home safe at night.
One year ago I asked for our help to work on a "flash drive editor", a
device for our African participants at home to read and write emails
stored on their USB flash drives, so they could upload and download them
later at an Internet cafe. We now call this the Includer
http://www.includer.org This endeavor is fantastic and strategic in that
it helps us appreciate the importance of many related endeavors and make
progress on them all. Similarly, Marcin Jakubowski's open source tractor
is a "keystone species" for a whole "ecosystem" of endeavors in
appropriate technology. http://www.openfarmtech.org/blog/
What have we achieved in this year? Our greatest success is that Ricardo
is with us. I learned of Ricardo through his "Sneakernet" page at the
OLPC wiki. Ricardo is a software engineer in the UK. He works with
Samwel Kongere, Dan Otedo, David Mutua to set up Internet access centers.
He sent refurbished laptops to many of our lab's participants. He solves
and documents technical challenges such as how to get online with a phone.
He is organizing trading clubs and helping Kenneth Chelimo and others get
established on PayPal and eBay. He has written hundreds of pages at our
wiki and made very concrete the technical options for us to pursue for our
I won the 2008 Knight News Challenge Award to blog about the Includer at
the PBS website, hopefully starting in the next month or so. Thanks to an
idea from Barry Dobyns, I wrote a proposal that online services fund us to
develop offline versions. http://www.includer.org/presentation/ I am
very glad for Ed Prentice's help from Silicon Valley, and also I had lunch
with Christian Crumlish at Yahoo! and Charles Warren at Google. The world
is definitely moving towards simpler laptops and e-book readers. Yet I
haven't been able to make the needed contacts to take the Includer closer
The challenges for our Includer are:
* The market for the Includer is a moving target. Many people might
benefit from the Includer, but typically, within a year or two or three,
they will have moved on to have their own laptop and Internet access.
Franz Nahrada and I observed in Hungary a similar challenge with
telecottages, which are very meaningful when nobody has Internet, but
within two or three years they generate a demand for Internet at home,
which can make the telecottages not so relevant.
* We don't have a leader in Africa to champion the Includer. We know
from our African participants that it's a worthwhile idea. But they are
finding ways to get computers and get online (often thanks to Ricardo!)
So we have to consider who in Africa cares about the Includer and why.
* I haven't been able to make corporate contacts with budgets who might
pay us to develop interfaces or to organize large global teams. I spent
five weeks in Silicon Valley but didn't get very far. However, we are
getting more participants there. We need a corporate strategy - if there
was a company with five Minciu Sodas participants, then we would surely
get paid work. If we keep writing our dreams and identifying who we'd
like to work for, then we can work across our network to make the links
(through LinkedIn, FaceBook, events) and organize independent thinkers in
* We don't have a hardware team or even software team. We'd like to have
students, retirees or other enthusiasts who we could send hardware parts
to for trying out small projects. There's a lot of software that we could
develop and try out. We also need a project leader. Ricardo doesn't want
to make that commitment.
I thanked Ricardo and asked him what he's found most fun and meaningful.
He's very excited about his work with Pamela MacLean and John Dada.
Pamela will travel to Nigeria and she is forming digital camera clubs
there. Ricardo is preparing a photo editing course for them. Ricardo is
a photography enthusiast. Pamela has linked a class in a Nigerian school
with Steve Thompson's class at his school in the UK. Everyday they are
exchanging a photo and a caption, showing to each other their everyday
lives. This is very exciting and shows how David Mutua and others at
Teachers Talking are reaching out to include other Africans into our
Ricardo and I agreed on four priorities, in the order below, for our work
on the Includer and marginal Internet access:
1) What would you like to share online? We want to encourage our African
online experts to reach out and include more people. William Wambura in
Tanzania teaches the children: http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?Child
Fred Kayiwa leads a soccer team and has relatives in the village. Wendi
Losha Bernadette links us with women in Cameroon. Samwel Kongere is
training women at an ICT center in Kenya. Involving them would make our
network much more valuable. How would they like to participate online?
What groups would they like to engage? What kind of software or hardware
innovations would be helpful?
2) What is the business value of such people with marginal Internet
access? Who might value our work as individuals or large teams? What can
we do useful online and offline? What markets might we foster?
3) What are new technical solutions that we might develop and promote?
Ricardo thinks of many, including broadcasting data by FM radio from
community radio stations (I note also One World http://www.oneworld.com ),
or having a large display that works with a mobile phone by Bluetooth (see
Jeff Hawkins's Foleo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Foleo and also
netbook http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook , there are more than twenty
of them http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_netbooks ).
4) What technical skills (hardware, software) might we encourage in Africa
and around the world? for building Includers or even open source tractors?
and how might we help and organize open source hardware makers?
I encourage us to write about all of the above, but especially reaching
out and including those further out. Our next step is to survey our
African participants about how they access the Internet. I am still
looking for a smart way to set that up online. I have set up a Ning
social networking site http://worknets.ning.com which I invite us to join.
I will try to set up the survey there (I found this software
http://glowday.com/ning ). Then we will know the kinds of people we are
reaching out to, the kinds of uses for the Includer, and the different
kinds of Includers we might work to develop.
Thank you all for inspiring us and including us!
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