Missing from great internet access projects

There are numerous wonderful projects out there to bring internet access to parts of the world that currently do not have it. So why should we start another? What can we bring to the table?

I don\’t know everything that is happening, but from what I have found, there are gaps. This is not a criticism in any way, just an observation that there is a place for our project. The gaps concern finances, timing, entrepreneurship, and contributors.

Google has floated the idea of launching over a hundred satellites to provide worldwide internet access – specifically for the developing world. Facebook is talking about a similar project using solar powered drone aircraft. The gaps left here are financial and time-related. Very few of us can contribute in any financially significant way to the launch of even one satellite or the building on one drone. Lots of us are not able to contribute more than our time and talents, but seek opportunities to contribute just that if we can see the difference we make personally.

The timing for these ambitious projects is measured in years or decades. We can cheer them on from the sidelines, but while we wait we might ask if there is something we can do right now.

By entrepreneurship, I mean that charity’s limits can sometimes be extended by looking for opportunities for profit, rather than seeing profit as an evil. Not all projects have this outlook, but some do. I think it comes down to benefit before profit, with people first and foremost. I think there are opportunities for entrepreneurs in places where very modest investments can lead to world-class businesses, because rich nations do not have a monopoly on talent, creativity or drive.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” sums up better than I can. The saying could go farther though – how about “…Learn from the man’s lifetime of fishing and you feed yourself”?

The last gap I see is the opportunity to accept from those who would like to contribute, but have no means of doing so. Yes, we like to see people and organizations donate money and resources, we like to see opportunities given to deserving young people, and we like to see communities given access to the knowledge on the internet. Sometimes we forget that those communities can contribute back to us if we are willing to listen to and accept their gifts.

So, here are things we can do together to fill some gaps and make a great impact. We can make small investments in USB hard-drives while others build more expensive internet connections. We can start right now, we do not have to wait.

We can produce and collect content, we can teach what we know, we can distribute hard-drives where they will make the most impact. We can provide economic opportunities for ourselves and others.

Most importantly we can learn from others by allowing them to speak. We can use hard-drives to send information, but also to exchange information by keeping them circulating and seeing what comes back from students, teachers, churches and communities that add content to them.

CanJamEx can fill those gaps, in Canada and Jamaica and soon around the world, with your participation.


The download is done

It took a few days, but I have downloaded a static copy of Wikipedia.

It’s slightly out-of-date, but there is something cool about knowing there is a complete copy, of more knowledge than I can possibly read, on my laptop, currently in my backpack.

I know there are faster and more efficient ways to download, but I wanted to get a sense of what it would take to download something substantial with basic knowledge, a web browser and a poor internet connection. As expected, it was a almost a week of waiting and frustration. Chrome was useless, Firefox was better, but I still ended up wasting large chunks of data.

The flip side of this is that I have a stronger sense that CanJamEx can make a real contribution. We can contribute with some basic hardware, and also some basic experience.

I would love to take my backpack of info into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Better yet, some knowledge of bit torrents, one good connection on the island and a bunch of hard-drives, and my feelings of accomplishment could be spread to others at very low cost.


Downloading woes

Day one of downloading the Kiwix copy of all of Wikipedia did not go as hoped. The file is 40GB in size.

When I started, Chrome reported that it would take 1 or 2 days to complete with my internet connection. So, I let it run over-night, hoping that it might be a bit faster in the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, it was only 80% done when I had to unplug to take my computer to work.

When I arrived at work, I found that Chrome had canceled the download. Some googling revealed that Chrome can not resume a cancelled download, but Firefox can. So, I will try again with Firefox tonight.

Wikipedia on Disk

Check out http://www.kiwix.org/wiki/Main_Page

This is a project with the same basic idea – providing a way for schools and libraries without internet connections to access the educational content that is Wikipedia. I love what they have done, and would like to build upon it.

Wikipedia not only allows copy and paste of sentences, paragraphs and pages under its Creative Commons license, they also encourage and provide tools for bulk copying. Kiwix has taken advantage of this generosity and turned it into a real tool for students in the developing world.

I would like to see CanJamEx go even further with more content, and with a distribution network.  We can include this content as is, and use the wiki format and Kiwix software on additional content we generate.  The distribution network – formal and informal cycling and copying of USB hard-drives – is the physical companion to the data component Kiwix has created.

Next on my list of things to do is to download a copy, try it out and learn more about the software.

Welcome to CanJamEx

CanJamEx is a project: to compile a large digital library of educational, cultural, technical, artistic, local and international content; suitable for use by anyone with a computer, whether they have a good internet connection or rely on a USB hard-drive loaded with that same content.

We want students and community members in developing nations to have equal access to content such as Wikipedia, even if they do not have internet access. We also want them to have an equal opportunity to contribute to the content, again without internet access. At the same time, we want everyone to find something useful, interesting and uplifting that they will turn to, even if they have great internet access.

We believe we can do this by collecting and curating new and existing open digital content, sorting and indexing it, copying it to USB hard-drives, and distributing the drives to schools, community centers, churches and individuals who have a computer but problematic or no internet access. The drives would be cycled around a circuit from remote locations to centralized content update stations, so users would have access to relatively up-to-date content and would have an opportunity to add their own content to the drive which would ultimately be transferred to the net.

We believe we can do this by starting with a collaboration between Canada and Jamaica, to exchange all kinds of digital content – Wikipedia but also music, stories, photography, software, art, lessons, community listings, news and the valuable content you dream up.

We believe we can do this with your help. Join us.