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[February 05, 2014]
Remote villages struggle to leap into Internet age [Business Daily (Kenya)]
(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) We take it for granted that at the swipe of a finger on the phone, we can access the Web, chat with friends, send emails and download apps due to the wide availability of 3G and Wi-Fi internet connections.
However, traveling to various places in the continent reveals that much still needs to be done to fully connect Africa.
Many people still have to travel long distances or wait for long periods to connect to the Web.
Some ISPs in Uganda and Congo are providing email services to regions that are remote or difficult to reach due to war using short wave radio signals.
The nature of short waves makes them unsuitable even for reliable voice communication and are mostly used in one way radios. Using them to do error-free data transmission, therefore, becomes a challenge.
However, this is sometimes the only means of communication in these regions and some ISPs have adapted it for data.
Due to the high error rates and slow speeds, a single email with a 1MB attachment can take up to four hours to download.
That might seem a pretty awful time to get one email. But considering it would take close to five days of traveling to get a letter to the recipient in these places, a four-hour wait for an email is 'fast'.
People also use email to browse the Internet. They get their daily dose of news and social media by sending a mail to a particular address with the URL as the subject and they get the web page via email after a few hours.
Such services include Web2PDF that allow you to get any webpage (with images) by sending a mail to email@example.com with the first line of the body containing the URL you want.
This not only compresses the otherwise large and rich webpage to a smaller PDF file, but also enables its delivery over an extremely slow link where a web browser would simply time out.
Other services include TEK, which is an email-based web browser that fetches webpages as emails and has extremely long timeout periods. Other services such as Flexamail allow one to interactively participate on social media all via email.
In Cameroon, one cyber cafe has one computer and a printer operated by the owner. The proprietor receives Skype/IM messages and VoIP calls and prints/writes them down to deliver to the villagers by motorbike.
The good thing with IM messages is that they can be sent even when the recipient is offline and he then receives them for a period of time when he powers on his generator and his satellite link comes online. He will then write down the messages on pieces of paper.
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