Nearly 5 billion people around the world lack basic internet access, putting them at a severe disadvantage in terms of economic, educational, health, and social opportunity. While a number of providers are attempting to address this global digital divide, our panel will explore our collaborative attempt to bridge this divide using several low-cost technological solutions, offering enormous potential for reaching the developing world. We will discuss our experiences using Outernet, Keepod, and RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education & Learning). These technologies allows our team to distribute open content to “information-poor” communities in a cost-effective and efficient way.
In partnership with Outernet, a global broadcast data startup, an IT nonprofit in Malawi called ShiftIT, Salesforce/Heroku, and World Possible, University of Massachusetts Amherst librarians, students, and faculty are transmitting sought-after, openly licensed information to libraries and schools that have no, or very limited, internet access. Under the leadership of the UMass Amherst Libraries a student “World Librarians” group is providing residents of the developing nation of Malawi with access to information that would otherwise be out of reach. Sites in Malawi request information they want via Twitter and tag the UMass Amherst account. The advantage of Twitter being the reduced cost to cellular data plans. Tweets are then organized and managed within the Salesforce & Heroku Apps, allowing searchers to easily fulfill requests. The preliminary success of this pilot suggests that there is potential for it to be replicated on a much larger scale as well as expanded into other fields such as public health.