The Question Box is a project from UC Berkeley's Rose Shuman to bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to places that are too remote or poor to sustain a live Internet link. It works by installing a single-button intercom in the village that is linked to a nearby town where there is a computer with a trained, live operator. Questioners press the intercom, describe their query to the operator, who runs it, reads the search results, and discusses them with the questioner (it's like those "executive assistant" telephone services, but for people who live in very rural places).
This is a really good example of how the net can extend beyond the physical boundaries of its wires. I remember being in Entebe, Uganda, and seeing the print shops that were out of the city and off-campus, where you could go and browse a CD-ROM's worth of electronic text for printing and binding. The CDs were updated regularly by couriers on motorcycle, who brought them from the capital, creating a relatively high-latency sneakernet link over terrain that (for political and technical reasons) the Internet couldn't cover.
I supposed that there must be an even higher-latency connection further from these print shops, of people who place orders for their wares that are fulfilled once a week, and a still higher latency connection further out, of people who inherit the books once those people are done with them. The closer you are to the live net, the more control you have over the information it delivers.
Eventually, the net's tendrils will extend to the places where the print-shops are, and they will relocate to the villages, and the people who inherit second-hand books will become the people who order the books. And eventually -- through programs like One Laptop Per Child -- the live net may reach even the most remote corners.
But the net isn't binary (well, it is, but not in the way I mean): it isn't there or not-there. It can ooze in, over the period of years and decades.
The Question Box has been deployed live in Phoolpur village in Greater Noida, close to New Delhi and it was a stonking, smashing success, and will now be expanding further. Check out the project page.
Benji Edwards’s guide to preserving vintage electronics is a fascinating look into all the ways that even solid-state gear can go off in long-term storage: a lot of stuff (batteries, capacitors and even rubber) can leak viscous, electronics-destroying liquids; plastics break down in UV light; mold and corrosion eat your gear from within; spiders, crickets […]
Indiana U is selling off a huge lot of lab equipment, including these space-pod-looking gantries. Winning bidder is responsible for dismantling and shipping. “To give someone an idea of how large these are, there are two pits that they sit in. Each of the pits are 28’x35’x10′ deep.”
Vertu, the “luxury” cellphone maker whose handsets look like drug cartel handguns and are always comically obsolete, went out of business last month, reports the BBC. It is to auction off its inventory. Bids start at $26,000. Thuy Ong: The auctioneer, G J Wisdom & Co, says the phones are a mix of concept models […]
The Pry.Me Bottle Opener holds tens of thousands of times its own weight, and you can pick one up now from the Boing Boing Store.This remarkable keychain is considerably smaller than any of your keys, but don’t let that fool you: it can easily open any bottle, and could even tow a trailer full of […]
Guaranteeing your privacy online goes way beyond checking the “Do Not Track” option in your browser’s settings. To ensure that your internet activity is totally hidden from Internet Service Providers, advertisers, and other prying eyes, take a look at Windscribe’s VPN protection. It usually costs $7.50 per month, but you can get a 3-year subscription […]
This project management bundle will help you get organized and learn how to lead a team to success. You can pay what you want for these five courses when you pick them up from the Boing Boing Store.To help you become an invaluable asset for your company, this bundle includes a curated collection of professional […]