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Wireless for the Developing World

It’s cool that I can surf the Internet from my couch because I’ve got a Wifi access point in my house. But it’s far more than cool that people in Bamako can hook their businesses to the Internet without using Mali’s overstressed phone system due to inexpensive wireless networks.

My friend Tomas Krag has been fascinated for several years by the possibility of wireless as a solution to connectivity problems in the developing world. He’s built networks in Ghana and Armenia, led workshops in Uganda and India, and has forgotten more about wireless networks than most people will ever know.

In October 2005, Tomas and the Wireless Roadshow project brought together several wireless networking experts and O’Reilly editor Rob Flickenger for a “book sprint” in London: a four day event where the authors and editor worked together to create a detailed outline and assign chunks of the book to each other. Four months later, they’ve got a finished product, a book called Wireless Networking in the Developing World”.

The book will be available in a print-on-demand edition in the near future, but is currently available as a download. It’s licensed under a Creative Commons “share alike” license, which means you can do whatever you’d like with the text, so long as you share the output (which makes it possible for someone to translate the text into Kiswahili, for instance.) There’s a wiki for the book, which allows you to have input into the next edition, adding suggestions or corrections.

How do you run a wireless access point from a battery? How long will a Wifi signal carry in rain or dust storms? How do you keep an access point on a 30m mast from being damaged by rain or lightning? I don’t know, but I will after downloading and reading the book…!

5 thoughts on “Wireless for the Developing World”

  1. I’ve been dying for this book to come out.

    And now it is here.

    And if not for the word armenia in your post, I would have never found it.

    My lucky day!

  2. I haven’t read the book yet, but this has been one of the main things going on in my mind lately. Wireless, mesh networks, the negroponte $100 laptop (so much potential).

    Thanks for the tip.

  3. Hi, I’m writing this from my apartment in Bamako using my wifi connection. My landline telephone hasn’t been working for a week but in my neighbourhood I have a choice of three connections (two open and one closed – mine). One of the open ones is run by a Malian NGO in an apartment beneath me and is left open deliberately so others can use it. It’s great! A number of hotels are now running ‘wifi zones’ and for the cost of a soft drink you can hook your laptop up – cheaper than an internet cafe in Bamako. Sotelma has announced a new broadband service via the landlines, but given the instability of the phone connection (I can rarely have incoming international calls) and the cost (I heard 30,000FCFA a month, over £30) I doubt if it will really catch on.

    The main problem for the moment is that the frequent power cuts cut off the router as well and the connection goes down. Also current fluctuation seems to affect it too – as well as the usual atmospheric problems. I get anywhere between 11 and 54Mbps.

    Great news about the book, I’m looking forward to downloading it and perusing it.

  4. tryin to find out more infor about wifi connection from a laptop I hve a friend there he is having a hard time try to connect and send email from his laptop we were thinking about sending him the equipment that he would need to to keep intouch with us here pls pls give me some more infor in this thanks
    just surfing the mali web

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