Thursday, September 10, 2009

South African Pigeon faster than ADSL

A news story on BBC today reports on the slow data transfer speeds a South African company experienced through its Telkom broadband Internet. Frustration led to an experiment where a 4 GB USB stick was attached to the leg of a homing pigeon set free to carry the data 60 miles between the company's two offices. Obviously this would not be a news story if the pigeon did not win, delivering the data in the same time it took the high-speed connection to transfer only 4% of the same data. Read both the story and see the video on the BBC site.

My visit to Cape Town, South Africa earlier this year gave me a taste of tech reality when my favourite practice of watching YouTube videos dwindled to the occasional luxury or watching the video download rather than watch the content. There is no blame placed on a continent or country that deals with the reality of providing basic services compared to a privileged world of technology where we sometimes forget to talk to each other. And make no mistake, at times the "high-speed" actually picked up quite a bit of speed!

It caused me to reflect on the potential of Internet connectivity in developing countries where education and the reality of rural areas separated by great distances are daily issues. What if? What if broadband Internet were available to all children who do not have access to teaching resources? What if it contributed to health care, to peaceful dialogue, to global collaboration, to economic development? What if providing broadband Internet to every citizen were as important as providing schooling, hospitals and roads?

Access to information on the Internet is an equalizer in a world that is far from equal and an 11-month old pigeon may have given us an exaggerated and humorous glimpse of it. A pigeon is carrying its message (ironically this time through a BBC website) that its time to get off our high-tech horses and put our money where our mouse is.

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