Monday, February 2, 2009

The impact of broadband in rural places--African ones, no less

U.S. rural watchers and advocates have been paying close attention to what the Obama administration will do to advance the availability of broadband in the rural U.S. Read posts here and here, among others. Now, today's NYT, reports on the prospect of satellite internet connections in remote parts of Africa.

The dateline is Entasopia, Kenya, which journalist Chris Nicholson describes this way:
The outpost, with about 4,000 inhabitants, is at the end of that road and beyond the reach of power lines. It has no bank, no post office, few cars and little infrastructure. Newspapers arrive in a bundle every three or four weeks.
As part of a limited initiative funded in part by Google, three University of Michigan engineers recently installed a satellite dish there, powered by solar panels. It is connected to several computers in the community center.

Nicholson's story details some of the ways in which residents of Entasopia are using the internet, from filing government reports regarding agricultural development to educating the community about disabilities. He also notes that one major obstacle is illiteracy, which is a particular problem among women.

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