Bringing Electronic Politics to the Great Unwired

With many of our online colleagues taking the holiday week off, it’s time for e.politics — temporarily ensconced deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas while measuring the Pulse Of The Heartland — to take up the slack. And maybe to finish off a few articles that have been screaming for conclusion for weeks.

But first, let’s connect some dots international-style, with a nod to the globalization instincts of How The World Works. What does a European rocket launch from Guiana have to do with the rise of global people power? When an Ariane 5 boosts an African communications satellite into orbit, plenty. The Rascom consortium — dig the animated intro with an excellent backing track — aims to bring new digital communications access to telecom companies and internet service providers across this tragically most unwired of continents.

And based on a Netsquared presentation from Kim Lowery of Kabissa back in September, they should see plenty of demand. Among other things, she talked about how people in one small town, lacking a ‘net connection, would type out emails and give them on disk to a car owner who would drive them weekly to the nearest city (hours away) and send them to the wider world, returning later with the replies. THAT’S being hungry for communications.

Political implications? In countries where even the basics of government spending are closely held secrets, information that we in the industrialized world take for granted can be revolutionary (remember Google Earth and Bahraini corruption?). For a hint of the new potential, see this Post piece on modern campaign tools’ spread to Kenya (note that Dick Morris unfortunately went along for the ride). And while cell phones are still much more common than computers in the Third World, the tubes are coming: I got my first look this weekend at the one-laptop-per-child XO machine, courtesy of my father, who’s taken advantage of the give-one/get-one holiday offer (my brother and his IBM-Linux-guru wife have done the same). The user interface seems clunky, but the wifi works and the next generation of the software promises to be much more straightforward. Just you wait until these little critters and their descendents overrun the globe….


Written by
Colin Delany
View all articles