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Effective use of marginal Internet access

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This is an article I wrote for the minciu_sodas_en mailing list - and gives some of my thoughts on Wizzy Digital Courier.

Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2003 20:03:46 +0200
From: Andy Rabagliati <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: minciu_sodas_en Effective use of marginal Internet access

On Sat, 06 Sep 2003, minciusodas wrote:

Effective use of marginal Internet access

Core ideas

What software might best serve these individuals, and the
organizations that help them? Often, these individuals feel isolated,
and they greatly appreciate the energy that they get from each other.
They might now engage each other in the global Internet society.

The emphasis should always be on Open Source, freely copiable, software.

Why ?

One of the more remarkable things about Open Source is that it /can/
be done - we therefore have an obligation to explore it. We use Linux,
and open source software.

We think of marginal Internet access as any limitations to the always-
on, at-home, high-speed, fixed-rate, real-time, take-with-you, multi-
channel, multimedia access that many of us take for granted. We
wish to help individual activists make effective use of marginal
access, which in many places means paying per minute, staying up after
midnight, working from a center, or using a slow line.

There is another assumption that has appeared - mostly with the advent
of the World-Wide-Web - that is its interactive nature.

Once upon a time - there was the letter. My parents corresponded by
mail, across the world, and treasured the thoughtful comments implied in
sitting down, thinking of the other person, and writing their thoughts.

Then the telephone appeared. Extremely convenient, and (in America) free
local calls - from its inception. AT&T (in their beneficient wisdom)
decided that everyone connected to the local exchange could talk for a
flat monthly rate. This encouraged younger people to talk, and to use
the telephone as a tool.

Looking back - this did a number of things.

Firstly, it was good for (long-distance) business.

Secondly - it introduced the telephone as the interrupter of life.
Sales people live til this day with the 'call me any time' mentality
- it goes with the territory. However, I had (have) many problems - I
am a programmer. I stack things up in my head, sort them out, and lay
them down again. Sometimes it can take an hour to lay the pieces down
correctly. A telephone call, even 1 minute, can lose me half an hours work.

Thirdly, it enabled other technologies. Like - the Fax machine. All the
power of a letter, the simplicity and immediacy of the telephone. Giving
convenience back to the recipient.

In the USA the telephone enabled the bulletin board of the 1970s. Write
a message, or a reply. Your computer calls up locally, adds the message
to the board. That computer calls locally (a different local ..) and
passes it to another computer. Chinese whispers (a childrens game where
messages are passed) between the computers faithfully copies your
message across the country - all at local (no-charge) rates.

The Internet is born. UUCP is the protocol. It carries Email, and Usenet
News. Usenet News lives on - either via your local news-server, or
- the best known web interface, and archive.
All this with the convenience of the letter - answer in your own time.

The Web arrives. Now we are back to the interactive age.

Swahili has a saying - Haraka Haraka hakuna baraka.

Hurry Hurry - no blessing.

We are encouraged by the work of Andy Rabagliati and others in
creating the Wizzy Digital Courier https://wizzy.org.za/ Wizzy
allows students at Eshowe Junior School in South Africa to write
emails and create websites during the day, and then send them all out
late at night, when the rates are fixed. Alternatively, outgoing
material can be transferred to memory and delivered by bicycle to a
neighboring school, and likewise with incoming material.

Thank you.

Now WWW is synonymous with Internet, we have the struggle to bring the
Web to people not connected in real-time. The real-time is the expense,
the premium service, the interruption, the telephone call. If only we
could have the simplicity, and affordability, of the mailman, and the
power of the Web.

It is possible. We have done it. UUCP (a tried and tested offline
protocol) is the messenger. We have moved it to overnight dialup, and
the USB memory stick - carried back and forth by a person.

We use a powerful offline web cache called wwwoffle
and some programs that I have written - to scoop pages in one place,
and present them for viewing at another.

Our goal is to expand on this concept so that we might meet a wide
variety of individual needs for robust participation. Imagine
working offline to moderate a YahooGroups, work with the Google API,
or contribute to a Wiki.

Our strategy is to serve individual activists with custom solutions
so that we learn many different ways that they might participate in
Internet society. We will then develop an Application Service
Provider that will work with them so that, as much as possible, these
solutions might be delivered in centralized ways by Internet Service
Providers, much as webmail is today.

Cheers, Andy!

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