How do you provide a useful, usable, and compelling web experience to users who live beyond the web’s reach?
It’s hard to imagine in today’s “always-on” internet existence, that there are still parts of the world that have an internet that’s always off. Developing nations either lack the funds, infrastructure, or geography to implement widespread web access.
Enter two former MIT students who have started a company called United Villages. They’ve found a way do deliver the web to remote locations – albeit asynchronously. Villages are given an enclosed “Internet Kiosk” which is, basically, a stand-alone Village Wide Web. Content from the web-at-large arrives via, get this… a truck! Maybe Ted Stevens was wrong.
Here’s how it works: A truck equipped with a file store and a wi-fi antenna loads up on content in an area with access. Then, it drives from village to village delivering that content to the internet kiosk. Users can then interact with that content as if it were the web. Emails, form submissions, and web searches are queued at the kiosk, picked up by the truck, carried by the truck to a hub where they are processed and the results return on the truck’s next trip through the village.
In an interview on PRI’s “The World,” founder Amir Alexander Hasson stated that it’s pretty easy to figure out what content a small rural village would be interested in. For instance, a rural Indian village is interested in cricket scores, Bollywood previews, and Ashwarya Rai photos. You can queue up a pretty significant body of content with a relatively small storage footprint and meet almost all the browsing needs of your end user. To cover the rest, they engage their end users. Occasionally, they will get a request for Britney Spears info – some content travels faster than the web, apparently.