Sophont
Thursday, February 05, 2004
 
Rural Cambodia, Though Far Off the Grid, Is Finding Its Way Online:
"Without wires for electricity or telephones, this village of about 800 people has nevertheless joined the online world, taking part in a development project set up by an American benefactor to connect 13 rural schools to the Internet.

Since the system went into place last September at the new elementary school here in Cambodia's remote northeast corner, solar panels have been powering three computers. Once a day, an Internet 'Motoman' rides a cherry red Honda motorcycle slowly past the school. On the passenger seat is a gray metal box with a short fat antenna. The box holds a wireless Wi-Fi chip set that allows the exchange of e-mail between the box and computers. Briefly, this schoolyard of tree stumps and a hand-cranked water well becomes an Internet hot spot.

It is a digital pony express: five Motomen ride their routes five days a week, downloading and uploading e-mail. The system, developed by a Boston company, First Mile Solutions, uses a receiver box powered by the motorcycle's battery. The driver need only roll slowly past the school to download all the village's outgoing e-mail and deliver incoming e-mail. The school's computer system and antenna are powered by solar panels. Newly collected data is stored for the day in a computer strapped to the back of the motorcycle. At dusk, the motorcycles converge on the provincial capital, Ban Lung, where an advanced school is equipped with a satellite dish, allowing a bulk e-mail exchange with the outside world."

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