Geekcorps Writeup on Newsforge

December 11, 2006

I missed this writeup from a little while ago. It is a good description of what Geekcorps is doing in Mali. Some of their really interesting projects are the Water Bottle Antenna, which provides a powered wifi antenna for about $3 (compared to $100) and the Desert PC which is basically a fanless, sealed machine designed for tough conditions (running a version of Linux of course — customized to minimize hard drive writes for durability!) What is not to love about a custom Linux distro for the developing world?

In the village of Bourem Inaly, Mali there are over 120 television sets powered by 12-volt car batteries, but there is almost nothing to watch. With its CanTV project, Geekcorps has helped the local radio station stream video content to the local community over WiFi. The radio station which rents these units out benefits from a new monthly revenue stream, while the villagers benefit with an improved source of news and entertainment.

Geekcorps Mali (which seems to be their flagship outfit in Africa, and was founded by Ethan Zuckerman is probably on the leading edge of in-the-field low-bandwidth applications. Geekcorps Low Bandwidth Networking is a wonderful (technical) document that describes in some detail the setup they are using. I use a lot of the same technologies (the mail and webserver) in my job as a sysadmin.

And I am totally in love with their Cantenna TV project for its emphasis on community media. Check out the video demo'ing a build of one of their antennas.