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Talk by Veljko Pejovic at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab, October 2013.
Abstract: Internet connectivity represents a key factor in the overall development of any nation. It enables competitive participation in the global economy, serves as a valuable source of education and facilitates democratisation of a society. Unfortunately, connectivity opportunities differ drastically among regions. Consequently, this difference, termed “the digital divide”, creates a gap in many aspects of human development: living standard, education, and health care, among others. The essence of the problem lies in a general lack of understanding of developing area dwellers’ needs, and in the design of information and communication technologies (ICTs) without consideration of peculiarities of these areas.
In this talk I will present a holistic approach that aims to improve local and global connectivity of rural, underdeveloped regions. First, we perform an in-depth analysis of the usage of existing technologies in one of the world’s most infrastructure-deprived regions – rural Africa. Our findings show that limitations of current technology severely inhibit higher usage and utility of ICTs in rural areas. We proceed with designing computer networking solutions for rural regions. To cover vast under-populated areas we propose long-range wireless networks based on newly-freed white space spectrum. We develop solutions to physical and MAC layer for white space communication geared towards optimal utilization of limited energy and spectrum resources, and support voice and video, applications that are of primary importance in areas with low population literacy. To avoid over-congested satellite links and reduce unnecessary communication delay we devise a suite of network traffic localization techniques that facilitate local content generation and sharing, enable free local cell phone communication, and improve online social networking in rural areas. We design our solutions after a careful investigation of issues that exist in rural regions and that are relevant to the target population. We strive to go beyond pilots, and, through collaborative work with local stakeholders and researchers, create solutions that will become integral parts of rural lifestyle.