Cory Doctorow links to this project to use bicycle-powered WiFi networking as a telecommunications bridge for Laotian villages. A demo is planned tomorrow, Tuesday, December 2, at 10 a.m
at the Jhai Foundation, 921 France Ave., San Francisco, CA.
I'd love to eyeball this somewhere on the east coast. I can think of a number of rural applications for the technology here in the US (and a number of other places) as well. Cross it with voice over IP, and you've got instant low-cost telecom infrastructure for nearly anywhere.
It's this type of application that Linux is really built for–an open-source, low-cost way to use technology to help people. This is why it's so important that the Linux kernel runs on a 486, on a small footprint–not just because it makes a nice set-top box or PDA operating system.
My colleague Dave Carr went to Africa a month ago to cover the UN's use of temporary telecom infrastructure for peacekeeping operations. The UN doesn't have as low a budget as the Jhai Foundation, but it certainly is cost-constrained. It could easily put a juiced-up version of this technology to good use, as could many governments and non-governmental organizations.
Of course, Microsoft is trying through lobbying (and other efforts) to keep too many governments from taking that route…