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The Go-Anywhere Cyber Cafe In a Shipping Container 145

Posted by timothy
from the want-one-as-a-back-yard-clubhouse dept.
nk497 writes "UK IT charity Computer AID has come up with a clever idea to use shipping containers to house thin-client-based, solar-powered cyber cafes, which can be used to bring connectivity to rural communities in Africa. The £20,000 boxes use a single Pentium 4 PC split out using thin client devices to offer computing to 10 people via local wireless access or mobile broadband. The solar power created from a single panel is enough to power the PC, 10 monitors, lighting, and also to charge mobile phones. Computer Aid founder Tony Roberts notes, 'The power of this idea is that we can drop that container anywhere in the world, literally in the middle of the Sahara desert.'"
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The Go-Anywhere Cyber Cafe In a Shipping Container

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  • that much!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisdom_brewing (557753) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:16PM (#32300596) Homepage
    20 grand?! Must be some pricey solar panels... Containers aren't that expensive...
  • Pentium 4? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by marciot (598356) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:16PM (#32300598)
    A Pentium 4 powering ten web browsers? I hope everyone doesn't go to YouTube at once.
  • Pentium 4? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NaCh0 (6124) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:17PM (#32300602)

    They should have went with a more power efficient (and faster) core 2 duo. It's not like the cost difference would have been noticeable given the cost of the shipping container, solar panels, etc.

  • The £20,000 cost (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:26PM (#32300706)

    The £20,000 cost probably comes from Microsoft charging them for 10 licences for the 10 monitors.

  • Cargo cult (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ugen (93902) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:29PM (#32300732)

    Dropping this container in the middle of Africa is a good way to establish a new cargo cult [wikipedia.org].

    Seriously, though - why are these people so intent on providing Internet access to countries and people that need many more basic things in life first (including proper hygiene, medical care, food, clothing, development of civic society, business, infrastructure, etc etc). Providing internet without these other things results in proliferation of "Nigerian scams" and very little else.

  • lots of empty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by silas_moeckel (234313) <silas@dsmi[ ]corp.com ['nc-' in gap]> on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:32PM (#32300764) Homepage

    Lets go haul a big empty shipping container around for giggles? This thing looks like it could be condensed down to 11 netbooks and the solar panels to power them, figure 4k for the lot vs 20k for this. Aside from the solar panels your talking about 20kg of netbooks than can be stored at night and carried by a single man to the destination on his back. Want something permanent get the locals to build something or reuse an existing building. This just seems like a me to me to see we have shipping container stuff isn't it cool.

  • Re:Cargo cult (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:41PM (#32300850) Journal

    I was just wondering how far down I'd have to scroll to see this traditional response to this type of story:

    Dropping this container in the middle of Africa is a good way to establish a new cargo cult [wikipedia.org].

    Seriously, though - why are these people so intent on providing Internet access to countries and people that need many more basic things in life first (including proper hygiene, medical care, food, clothing, development of civic society, business, infrastructure, etc etc). Providing internet without these other things results in proliferation of "Nigerian scams" and very little else.

    You're responding to a post about a:

    ( ) Technical innovation in a developing country
    (*) Product shipped to a developing market
    ( ) General discussion about IT in the developing world

    The location is:

    (*) Africa
    ( ) India
    ( ) Bangladesh
    ( ) China
    ( ) Somewhere else in Asia
    ( ) South America
    ( ) Central America
    ( ) Other _unspecified_

    You're objecting to it on the basis that:

    (*) Poverty hasn't been eliminated in that country yet
    ( ) American jobs will be lost

    Your argument is bogus because:

    ( ) Poverty hasn't been eliminated in the developed world either, that doesn't mean we should halt all technological research
    ( ) This will not adversely affect any efforts to alleviate poverty
    (*) This will help to alleviate poverty
    ( ) Poverty in that country isn't as widespread as you say it is
    ( ) The US does not have a divine right to keep all the cool jobs

  • by printman (54032) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:42PM (#32300874) Homepage

    OK, so lets put a metal shipping container (i.e. a big metal box) out in the desert and have people sit in there throughout the day - won't that get awfully hot?!?

  • by denzacar (181829) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:52PM (#32300958) Journal

    ... by throwing a fishing pole into his face.

    Basically, this is yet another fruit from the tree of philosophy of "if only Africanians had the KNOWLEDGE they would fix all their problems by themselves".
    Like the missing infrastructure - they would learn how to build roads and how to grow crops using only their hands by reading wikipedia.
    And maybe playing Civilization. And Farmville. Clean water would be provided from similar sources.
    Also, they would use the internet to study medicine and become doctors.
    In their spare time, between building roads, feeding themselves and getting their medical degree, they would figure out that whole economy shtick and kick ou.. no BUY OUT the foreign industries that keep exploiting them and their countries' natural resources.
    They would also inherently gravitate towards a free democratic society.
    Schools and hospitals and (clean industry) factories would simply pop-up everywhere when enough people learn enough things.
    There would be no corrupt politicians, no criminals, no dictatorships or interracial hatred or conflict.

    Really... All these people need to pull the Utopia up from the sand by its umm... cables?.. is The Internet.
    Then they would have the same wonderful system that all the remaining people in the world have - only better, cause they would have it "ready-made".
    No need for pesky experimentation and all those nasty revolutions when you have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips.
    Right?

  • Re:Cargo cult (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:54PM (#32300970) Homepage

    Whilst I would generally agree with this kind of debunking, I have to disagree this time around - purely because of the cost. This is a massive amount of money. 'High level' stuff (computers, internet etc.) can wait until basic amenities are fully in place. This huge amount of money can be spent on something more crucial before computers etc. because very few people die because lack of a computer in a cargo carrier. Coupled with the fact the first one is going to Zambia of all places - which is stricken not only by poverty but also AIDS

    I get where you're coming from. The idea everyone in place X is struck by poverty is naive. But Zambia of all places is not exactly in dire need of computing power versus other kinds of donations. To top it off, a good 20% of their population is AIDs positive.

  • OK... I'll bite... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by denzacar (181829) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:02PM (#32301062) Journal

    How in the hell will this alleviate poverty?

    Let's take Nigeria [wikipedia.org] for example.
    I KNOW FOR A FACT that they've got both Internet AND a working postal system there. I've seen the evidence.

    How will the "Internet in a box" magically alleviate poverty there? You can't just have the whole country running 419 scams.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:16PM (#32301188)

    Yes, the box itself can work in the middle of the Sahara, but how much is a satellite link and the ground equipment for it going to cost? I'm guessing it doesn't provide enough power to run that as well as the unit itself. So, you probably also need a power source for the ground station.

    It might be more usefull in a village with no power, but close in to a city with wireless connectivity that could be accessed with a good directional antenna.

    If you've already got a place with a hard wired connection or a ground station, then the PC's and power source are likely already available.

  • Re:Cargo cult (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @09:10PM (#32301872)

    (*) This will help to alleviate poverty

    I hate to confuse you will concepts beyond the grasp of most 14 year olds (or those arrested at that level of cognitive development), but African countries aren't poor because they don't have internet access or because they lack options for wealth generation. They are poor because they are politically backward and they will never advance politically until they fundamentally change their cultures. It is probably beyond even your guilt-ridden, trying-to-impress-your-friends-with-how-much-you-care, superhuman, messianic, completely full-of-yourself character to achieve this, but knock yourself out.

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