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"Internet Radio" Takes on a New Meaning in Mali
Alex Steffen, 4 Aug 04

This is a very cool project. Ian Howard, of GeekCorps, is wiring community radio stations in Bamako, Mali, with Internet connections.

The implications? As Ethan Zuckerman explains:

"Community radio is a tremendously important medium in Mali. It's one of the best ways for people in rural areas, especially non-literate people, to get information about local and national affairs, as well as about health and agricultural issues. There are hundreds of stations in the nation - some broadcast 24/7, others a few hours a day when power is available.

"One of the huge challenges radio stations face is providing content for their listeners. It's hard to pick up the New York Times in Timbuktu, or even subscribe to the AP Newswire. So radio content is often limited to pirated cassette tapes and news the broadcasters are able to gather on their own.

"Providing Internet access to radio stations would allow broadcasters to report national and world news to their communities. It would also allow programming from one radio station to be shared over the 'net and broadcast by other Malian stations. Finally, it would give Malians living abroad the chance to hear about the events in their home communities.

"The challenge? Lots of these stations are way, way off the grid, powered by solar or generators. And phone lines are unavailable, unreliable and impossibly expensive. So Ian and crew are putting together a plan based around low-end computers, open source software and long distance WiFi links."

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