Can it be done? Well, Paul English is going to give it a shot. I signed up for the Google group and got a deluge of e-mail from persons interested in volunteering, from marketing people to tecchies to non-profit types. So much mail came through that I finally switched it over to a daily digest mail. If interest is any indicator, Africa may beat rural America to wireless for all.
Paul English, the cofounder of travel search engine Kayak.com, wants to blanket all of Africa with free and low-cost Wi-Fi. It's a "big, big project," one that will consume the next decade of his life, English tells FastCompany.com.
JoinAfrica aims to bring a world of information to a continent whose population only has 8.7% Internet penetration right now. At the core of JoinAfrica is the belief that providing basic Internet is as essential to society as clean water and clean power.
English plans to kick off the nonprofit/for-profit hybrid this summer and begin creating partnerships between JoinAfrica and local African for-profit telcos. JoinAfrica would first branch out existing Web connections in villages using, for example, simple WiMAC hubs. Through these hubs, JoinAfrica would provide residents with free basic Web service, including access to email, Google, Wikipedia, and various news sources. Downloads of data-rich video, porn, or other non-essential sites would be limited (similar to what libraries in the U.S. do now), via a process called "bandwidth shaping." Local for-profits would charge for upgraded access and faster connection speeds, and English is also searching for ways to make sure these local companies continuously improve the service and lay more fiber.
Get more details at www.fastcompany.com