Sunday, September 09, 2007
Radio based computer communication
While in Mali I visited a regional communications center that transmitted market information collected by a market enumerator (see photo to right). The enumerator's job is to observe real market transactions taking place on a variety of important crops. That information is then transmitted by a form of ham radio to other regional centers and to the capital, Bamako.
Internet access in Africa is very expensive and unreliable. Most of the places we visited were using vstat connections. Those links are running about $1,000-1500 per month for a 128-256Kb connection. The use of a radio based system was not a great solution in terms of speed and each center does have to have a tall tower, but at least the costs of running the centers are not high once they are going. This is a very good example of a way to handle some of the harsher technology environments. And, by the way, the room we were in was almost 100 degrees and humid. How the head of the center was able to keep his coat on was a mystery to me. I was afraid to ask how long computer equipment would last in such an environment.