Reading list for April 2015

This month we have some new gadgets and a collection of writings about Internet connectivity in developing countries. Have fun going through the pointers and don’t hesitate to drop a line in the comments if you feel like discussing one of the items 😉

  • Wired wrote about a new PC aimed at letting people in the developing world make use of ICT. “Endless” is a made available without any screen, keyboard or mouse and running a customized version of the GNU/Linux+Gnome stack called the “Endless OS“. Anyone enjoying electricity and having a screen to spare can use one of these devices against 170 USD (230 for the version with WiFi). A good point is that the machines is sold with off-line content so that users don’t have to wait until Internet reaches them before being able to play with their machine.
  • Gizmodo blogged about a nice kit that allows anyone to assemble a laptop. The entire thing named “Pi-Top” is based around a RaspberryPi and priced $299. Sounds like a very nice way to educate everyone about the content of a laptop. Could also become a drop-in replacement for the XO.
  • A nice documentary from VPRO “TegenLicht” program entitled “Access to Africa”, the report Offline and falling behind: Barriers to Internet adoption” from McKinsey & Company and  the post “4 Reasons Why Global Satellite Internet Is A Fantasy” from ICTWorks are 3 good sources to put in perspective. The overlapping consensus is, IMO, that connecting people to Internet in an equal way is a good goal but the challenges ahead are probably not the ones expected. The lack of incentives, funds, (computer) literacy, and power are likely to put down many nice big ideas.
  • The Dutch newspaper Trouw wrote about “the parcel”, a 1Tb hard-drive full action movies, series, music and other material otherwise non accessible in Cuba. This hard drive is passed amongst a set of brokers who receives visits from people willing to fill up their USB sticks with their favourite content. One more interesting practical use-case for Sneakernets and one more proof that motivated individuals can find alternative ways to make (digital) content flow even in contexts of challenged connectivity.
  • In a great article entitled “Inside the Black Box of Internet Adoption: The Role of Migration and Networking in Internet Penetration in West Africa”, Linnet Taylor describes how she surveyed all the Internet cafes in northern Ghana to see under which conditions they can successfully contribute to the spread of access and adoption of Internet. Two analytic tools have been used: fsQCA to establish the most probable path to success from the individual survey responses,  and SNA to look at the degree of connectivity of local expertise and collaboration networks. As it can be read in the conclusion, “This research demonstrates that instead of occurring through large-scale corporate presence in developing countries, transfers of knowledge and the components of Internet technology are instead taking a circuitous and unpredictable route into developing countries” there are also some other indications that international collaborations are an important part of this unpredictable route.

 

 

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I am a researcher mainly interested in : architectures for publishing, consuming and preserving Linked Open Data in low-resource contexts; complex systems; education; data visualisation; video games

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