Bob Frankston and Nicaragua
We know we have to seriously address communications connectivity with the Geek Ranch project. I have been thinking about regular telephone service, cellular service, streaming video, Internet connectivity and even helping the community get some connectivity as a bunch of separate items. The interview and other reading got me thinking that this is one problem -- the transport of bits.
While there is a lot of telecommunications infrastructure in Nicaraguan population centers, you quickly get away from it. On the positive side, the Nicaraguan government is a lot more interested in helping people than in privatized infrastructure. That got me thinking that you can combine some of Bob's comments, the concept of mesh networking (as best represented by the One Laptop Per Child project), cheap hardware and cheaper labor, and address some problems.
My NicaLiving article explains what I am thinking about here. It basically means starting at the consumer end rather than the "service provider" end and trying to come up with something that addresses the needs of people and is affordable. This can start out as simple as a way for students to communicate with schools (a la OLPC ideas) but can easily expand into offering that connectivity to anyone in the area. With a mesh network, adding more users actually is a good thing as you add more connectivity.
I don't feel what I am suggesting is unique to Nicaragua -- I just happen to have some first-hand knowledge here. What I do think is that we -- meaning Linux geeks -- can put our heads together and come up with something that could offer a lot to people that have very little. And I am personally all for doing a trial project here near the Geek Ranch.