We talk frequently at Worldchanging about the importance of access to information and communication technology in remote areas of the developing world. We've focused in particular on the leapfrogging power of cell phones and the tremendous potential of internet access to empower and educate kids, as with the One Laptop Per Child program.
Now WC contributor, Ethan Zuckerman, points us towards a new project emerging from the Mali Geekcorps crew that brings broadcast television to remote regions of the country, where access to information is sorely limited but internet and mobile phone communications are still a long way off due to distance, illiteracy, and other factors.
CanTV is a truly remarkable little tool - a Wifi cantenna that includes an inexpensive AV receiver which allows people in an extremely remote Malian village to get video programming over the internet. The local radio station has a net connection and can download programming - it rents CanTV units to local people who’ve already purchased TVs (which they power with 12 volt car batteries). The TVs are useless for anything other than videowatching in this corner of Mali as there’s no broadcasting - with this new system, a local radio station is able to become a TV station without adding hardware more complicated than these little antennas. (For a sense of how simple they are, watch the lovely little CanTV construction video included on the page…)
As Ethan points out, this is a great example of a project which takes advantage of existing local components in order to establish an appropriate solution to a common problem. CanTV manages to introduce a new means of accessing knowledge without introducing a host of new and unfamiliar technologies and products which might not work in these areas.
[image from the DIY Geekcorps CanTV Guide]