Thursday, August 31, 2006

Monitor your location 24 by 7

Here is an example of a location-based application. Tim Hibbard has carried a GPS phone in his car for the last year. His position was updated and plotted on a Google map every 15 seconds. Soon, all cell phones will be location aware. Would you like to be tracked this way? Would you like to track your kids this way? Should we track criminals? Everyone? See where Tim is now and where he has been during the last year.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

UN report calls for developing nation backbones

(disclaimer -- I am the author of this report).

UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, has published a report documenting the deepening digital divide between developed and developing nations. Conventional policies focused on privatization, competition and independent regulation are not closing this gap, so the report calls for publicly funded, neutral-access backbone networks with points of presence in every rural village -- a similar strategy to that used by the US National Science Foundation in connecting universities in the late 1980s.


1. A decade of pilot studies and projects has shown that Internet applications can improve the quality of life in rural villages which, as a side effect, would slow the growth of urban slums. There are many success stories in commerce, medicine, education, news and entertainment, etc.

2. During the last two decades, we have encouraged a policy of telecommunication privatization, competition, and independent regulation (PCR), but the digital divide persists. PCR policy has been beneficial, but has run its course, and will not raise the capital to bring the Internet to rural areas of developing nations.

3. Therefore, we should build and operate neutral-access backbone networks (not access networks) providing high-speed Internet connection points in every village at public expense. The Internet is a general purpose communication technology that encourages substantial private investment, innovation, content creation and the sharing of knowledge by users and service providers.

4. Building these backbone networks would be a daunting challenge involving research and development as well as procurement, but we have faced such grand challenges before in other fields. We can follow the policies that guided construction of the US National Science Foundation backbone in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Links: Report highlights, and Full report.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Internet performance monitoring report

Physicists share very large data sets on the Internet, so performance is important to them. As such, they measure performance by regularly timing small data transfers between computers around the world. The 2006 Performance Monitoring Report shows continuing improvement in packet loss, data transfer rate and latency in all parts of the world. Performance in developing nations continues to lag that of developed nations.

2006 Digital Economy Factbook available

The 2006 Digital Economy Factbook is a good source for background data. It includes data and statistics on e-commerce, the communications industry, the hardware sector, digital media, the global use of the Internet and threats to the digital economy. Earlier versions are also online for viewing trends.