How Open Source Software and Wireless Networks are Transforming Two Cultures: An Investigation in Urban North America and Rural Africa

By David J. Yates, Thomas McGonagle and Anas Tawileh.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores how open source software and wireless networks enable digital inclusion in the United States and Africa. We begin by measuring the digital divide in these very different regions of the world. Our research demonstrates, both quantitatively and qualitatively, how the digital divide places populations in both regions at a disadvantage. Next we examine the role of these technologies in bridging the digital divide along three complementary dimensions. First, we show that both affordable technology and sound policy are necessary for digital inclusion. Second, we look at how these two technologies are extended, integrated, and customized in information and communication technology (ICT) solutions that are both creative and effective. Third, we describe how the hardware and software in networked systems have been tailored to support applications that are as diverse as the people using them. We also present a series of case studies that highlight specific wireless network and open source technologies and their impact on the education of children, as well as the development of local communities.

Keywords: Open Source Software (OSS, FOSS, FLOSS), Wireless Networks, Mesh Networks, Digital Divide, Technology and Policy, Digital Inclusion

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.145-158. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.730MB).

Dr. David J. Yates

Assistant Professor, Computer Information Systems, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA

David is an Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University. David’s research areas include computer networking, data communications, sensor networks, embedded systems, operating systems, and computer architecture. Before joining Bentley, David held research and academic positions at the University of Massachusetts and Boston University. His work has been published and presented at international symposiums and conferences, and appeared in refereed journals. In the corporate arena, he was a co-founder and vice president of software development at InfoLibria – a startup that grew to become a leading provider of hardware and software for building content distribution and delivery networks before it was acquired. With various colleagues, he holds several U.S. patents for processes and systems related to computer networking, content management, and mobile computing. He holds a PhD and MSc from the University of Massachusetts. He also holds a BSc from Tufts University.

Thomas McGonagle

Adjunct Instructor, Computer Technology, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Thomas is a passionate open source advocate and Boston area wireless activist. He has built and operated several community wireless networks. He has also developed and deployed large-scale, open source based systems for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a high traffic, market leading social networking site. He also works as an Adjunct Instructor teaching advanced Linux and networking courses at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. He holds an MS and BS from Bentley University. He expects to complete a second MS at Brandeis University and plans to continue his graduate studies at Emerson College.

Anas Tawileh

School of Computer Science, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Anas is a researcher and consultant for Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). Anas worked on many projects to bring technology to developing countries and has designed, developed and delivered several training and capacity building programs and workshops. He is currently working as consultant for the International Development Research Centre’s ICT4D project in the Middle East. His experience also includes more than seven years of working with international organizations including the European Commission, the Open Society Institute and the Association for Progressive Communications.


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