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$7 USB Stick Aims To Bring Thousands of Poor People Online

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the one-USB-per-child-project dept.

Android 201

dryriver sends this BBC report: "The USB flash drive is one of the most simple, everyday pieces of technology that many people take for granted. Now it's being eyed as a possible solution to bridging the digital divide, by two colourful entrepreneurs behind the start-up Keepod. Nissan Bahar and Franky Imbesi aim to combat the lack of access to computers by providing what amounts to an operating-system-on-a-stick. In six weeks, their idea managed to raise more than $40,000 (£23,750) on fundraising site Indiegogo, providing the cash to begin a campaign to offer low-cost computing to the two-thirds of the globe's population that currently has little or no access. The test bed for the project is the slums of Nairobi in Kenya. The typical income for the half a million people in the city's Mathare district is about $2 (£1.20) a day. Very few people here use a computer or have access to the net. But Mr Bahar and Mr Imbesi want to change that with their Keepod USB stick. It will allow old, discarded and potentially non-functional PCs to be revived, while allowing each user to have ownership of their own 'personal computer' experience — with their chosen desktop layout, programs and data — at a fraction of the cost of providing a unique laptop, tablet or other machine to each person.'"

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Cloud vs stick (0)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#46969593)

It's not clear to me that a thumbdrive is a better alternative than a Google account. But I applaud their effort.

Re:Cloud vs stick (3, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 6 months ago | (#46969717)

It's not clear to me how a bootable thumb drive is going to resurrect a non-functional computer. Neither is it clear what this will accomplish for all those people too poor to own one at all - although in the article it says these guys did provide five old laptops to a school where they were testing this.

Dead hard drive or EOL Windows (5, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46969911)

I could think of two ways this could "revive" a computer. First, a computer with a no-longer-updated version of Windows that is incapable of running Windows 8.1 may be capable of running Xubuntu or Lubuntu or Puppy. Second, a computer with a dead internal hard drive may be capable of running an operating system from USB storage. True, 24 MB per second (Hi-Speed USB effective data rate after various overheads) isn't very fast for sustained transfers compared to something more SATAnic, but flash still has the seek time advantage.

Re:Cloud vs stick (3, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | about 6 months ago | (#46969971)

"It's not clear to me how a bootable thumb drive is going to resurrect a non-functional computer."

No? What causes a computer to be written off as 'non-functional?'

The first thing that comes to mind is a failed hard drive. Plug in a system on a stick and it's functional again.

Very often there is actually *nothing* physically wrong with the hard drive, it's just a corrupted/infected filesystem, but the typical computer user doesnt know the difference and junks it anyway. And system on a stick fixes that too.

"Neither is it clear what this will accomplish for all those people too poor to own one at all"

It will allow them either a) pick up a 'dead' computer either free or a a very low (scrap metal value) price and use it or b) borrow/rent computer time but still be able to boot their own system on the temporary hardware, maintaining some semblance at least of their privacy.

Re: Cloud vs stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970103)

Almost as often is a fried graphics card, which isn't as easy to fix

Re: Cloud vs stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970475)

No not just as often. Much less often

Re:Cloud vs stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969729)

From the summary: "Very few people here use a computer or have access to the net." In one sentence, this is why it's better.

To elaborate, you might reference these nearby sentences: "The test bed for the project is the slums of Nairobi in Kenya." and "The typical income for the half a million people in the city's Mathare district is about $2 (£1.20) a day.".

Re:Cloud vs stick (3, Interesting)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 6 months ago | (#46969731)

It's less vulnerable to keyloggers and other garbage you might find on a shared PC, and there are plenty of computers junked due to bad or malware-ridden hard drives that could quickly and cheaply be brought back to life with something like this.

On the other hand, there's no standard method for changing the boot device on PCs (it's typically a rather arcane procedure) and libraries and Internet cafes often won't let you boot from your own media for security reasons. I'm not sure how practical this would be for someone with no computer experience.

Re:Cloud vs stick (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 months ago | (#46969815)

Its a little more expensive, but you might as well just have a raspberry pi or similar small hdmi capable computer. That way you just plug it in to any TV (raspberry pi even supports composite), and do your computing right on the device.

What security reasons? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46969931)

libraries and Internet cafes often won't let you boot from your own media for security reasons.

What security reasons? If this stick catches on, there won't be much need for internal hard drives in an Internet cafe anymore.

Re:What security reasons? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46970355)

If I can boot from my own media onto a machine that has networked Windows XP I can use one of the utility boot sets to mount the XP volume and change the password or add a new admin account to the XP machine. I suspect it wouldn't be that hard to do the same thing with Windows 7.

Re:What security reasons? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46970473)

If this stick catches on, there won't be much need for internal hard drives in an Internet cafe anymore.

If I can boot from my own media onto a machine that has networked Windows XP I can use one of the utility boot sets to mount the XP volume and change the password

That explains why present-day libraries and Internet cafes don't allow USB booting. That makes sense; thank you. But a machine designed primarily to accept these USB sticks won't "ha[ve] networked Windows XP" because it won't have an internal hard drive.

Re:What security reasons? (3, Insightful)

QQBoss (2527196) | about 6 months ago | (#46970373)

It isn't in the interest of an internet cafe, which charges for time logged in, to allow you to bypass their log-in environment (typically some form of cafe management software).

Additionally, using any USB stick that successfully bypassed the management software in China would get the user arrested.

The security reasons gp mentioned aren't related to the user, they are related to 'the man'.

Re:What security reasons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970407)

And why would it catch on now? It has been around for many years. It's so common most GNU/Linux distros can be burned either on a stick or, if you're a caveman who hasn't left his cave since the Ice Age, a DVD.

Re:What security reasons? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46970483)

Bootable USB flash drives "ha[ve] been around for many years". An organized effort to distribute them in specific localities has not, and the featured article is about such an organized effort.

Re:Cloud vs stick (1, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 6 months ago | (#46969811)

The difference is clear - you can shove a Google account up your ass, but only when speaking metaphorically.

Re:Cloud vs stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970141)

I did not know that Marie Antoinette used /..

Not everyone needs a computer on their own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969603)

Just like cars, computers are not used most time. In fact, several people could share one computer. We already do this through cloud computing, and did this with mainframes. Now we should make it so that the users have control over their personal data.

How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (5, Insightful)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about 6 months ago | (#46969619)

Can someone explain to me what dumping piles and piles of computers into Africa is going to accomplish?

In Africa I see waves of ethnic turmoil coupled with basic infrastructure problems, all played by the governments to keep a few powerful folks in power.

Are we trying to turn Africa into our next call center and need to get the kids up to speed with computers? I don't think that is going to happen until something resembling stability (i.e. taking care of food, clothing and shelter for entire years without fear of a machete attack) takes hold.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969639)

something is better than nothing

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about 6 months ago | (#46969679)

No, not really, because it will only end up in the hands of warlords and anyone caught trying to make themselves better will be 'punished', which may mean killed, or worse.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (3, Informative)

voss (52565) | about 6 months ago | (#46970055)

This is Nairobi, Kenya. Its a multiparty Democracy. Yes they are poor but Kenya is a developing nation not a failed state.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (3, Informative)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 6 months ago | (#46970127)

A multiparty democracy whose president is wanted by the ICC for war crimes relating to the deadly ethnic riots he caused in the last election.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (3, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 6 months ago | (#46969681)

something is better than nothing

And that something should be access to reliable electricity,clean water, and most importantly physical safety(seeing as how even teh 3rd richest state in Africa-Nigeria-can't even guarantee safety for its citizens as roughly 300 kidnapped girls can tell you) before it is access to a personal computer. Africa needs infrastructure, not internet.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (2, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46969833)

A lot of the demand for safety, clean water, healthcare, etc. comes from constant, believable exposure to the concept that it is a human right that people should expect. This is why communist countries wanted to control the media and prevent exposure to decadent western cultures. Getting people in Africa "online" and otherwise educated in how the rest of the world really functions, day in and day out, will go a long way to motivating the oppressed into doing something about their condition for themselves.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969937)

You mean totalitarian.

And they still do.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970191)

You mean totalitarian.

And they still do.

Totalitarian or communist is a distinction without a difference.

At least the way the GP posted. There are totalitarian governments that aren't communist. There are no communist governments that aren't totalitarian.

And save us all your No True Scotsman fallacies.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 6 months ago | (#46969825)

A kick in the nads is something. What would you rather have, that or nothing?

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46970113)

If you are not to utter never,

it stands to reason,

always is off-limits, too.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969693)

The point is not to help anybody. It is for the technology industry to give the impression it is "making the world a better place", when for the most part, it isn't.

Ssshhhhh (2, Insightful)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 6 months ago | (#46969697)

You're going to ruin the liberal feel good circle jerk. Yeah someones discarded PII-266 box will boot Linux and get Africa online. Now they just have to fix the other issues like drought, drug trade, poaching, blood diamonds, genocide....

Re:Ssshhhhh (2)

bondsbw (888959) | about 6 months ago | (#46969943)

To be fair, getting them online and sharing knowledge can be a catalyst for those kinds of changes.

Re:Ssshhhhh (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46970097)

Indeed. And the difference in quality of life between the average Kenyan and poor westerner is so vast that it's difficult to comprehend. Two dollars a day, AKA 174 Kenyan Shillings, is a salary below the level even magnanimous companies can sell any meaningful life-changing technology.

Cellphones, and by that I mean budget portable computers, are plausibly more affordably practical and they are a multi-function device that requires less hard-wire infrastructure.

Re:Ssshhhhh (3, Insightful)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 6 months ago | (#46970223)

Oh yeah that old Linux box really filters water or prints money. How the hell do you even power it when you have no electricity? Whatever you send there will be seized by whoever is running the country this month and sold for profit.

Re:Ssshhhhh (2)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 6 months ago | (#46970325)

OK, I'll bite: what does "liberal" have to do with this? "This is something I don't like, and liberals are something I don't like, hence this must be something liberal?"

To clue you in, fixing issues like drought, drug trade, poaching, blood diamonds, genocide in Africa is more often seen on a liberal agenda than the conservative one, and if conservatives want to do something, it is usually something like:
(1) Some intervention that directly benefits the US (actually, nowadays it's more "benefits the oil or weapon industry that paid for our campaign")
(2) Let the magic of the free market do its thing
(3) ???
(4) oh never mind, we already had our profit at step (1) and now our term in office is over, suckers!

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (3, Informative)

retroworks (652802) | about 6 months ago | (#46969701)

That's because of the news cycle, or your news sources. "If it bleeds, it leads". Your emphasis on "machete attacks" shows you should read the Economist instead of whatever you're getting your news from. Here's an article with some simple graphs and pictures about what's going on in Africa internet today. http://o3bnetworks.wordpress.c... [wordpress.com]

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (5, Interesting)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 6 months ago | (#46970081)

"That's because of the news cycle, or your news sources. "If it bleeds, it leads"."

Such a good point. I admit, this was my view of Africa before I met a couple of real Africans. One from Liberia, another from Somalia.
They both paint very different pictures of the Dark Continent.

Fungbey, my friend from Liberia, paints a modern picture, tarnished only by the civil war that ended in (I think) 2003. The country is nearly indistinguishable from any western country, but much poorer. Education is very valued and easy to obtain and for many emigrating to the west they're education is the only thing they bring with them. Yes, they have a lot more problems and poverty than most of the west, but it is nowhere near what you see on the news, which focuses on the problematic interior, where warlords are still the problem .

Kannah, my friend from Somalia, paints a picture of abject poverty, corruption, and pretty much everything you see bad about Africa.
You almost never see Fungbeys Africa in the news. Except for the civil war, Liberia is just too normal and boring to be interesting.

For the worst of Africa, yeah, no electricity, internet, food shortages, etc, the PC is a no starter. But a lot of Africans live in modern Africa. Ignored by the mainstream news until something bad happens.

  And I personally think Africa will become the next China, just as China replaced S. Korea, that replaced Japan and so on for cheap labor.
I see it as a good thing. This cycle has left all of those countries better off than before.

But I understand why so many have the same incorrect view of Africa that I did. No one reports on Africa's good points, or Europe's, or America's. All any of us hear are the bad parts of other cultures. You have to search for anything beyond sensationalism.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969735)

Those old PCs must go somewhere. You can recycle them, which is not free, or dump them on your backyard and pay the costs to reduce environmental damage (you don't want to ruin your own backyard, right? think of the environment!) and everything OR you can dump them into a third-world country. Sorry, I mean, or you can selflessly donate them to an African country where most people have no access to electricity, but they aren't too worried about that as the hunger makes lack of electricity seem like less than an annoyance.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969761)

Right. Most people in Africa have no electricity. Gotcha. And those without electricity are the ones paying for used PCs, $15k per container, to dump them to save Americans recycling dollars. Gotcha. The urban electrification rate in Africa is 59%. Nigeria had 6.9 million households with televisions in 2006. You are more likely to be hit by a Mercedes than to die from a machete or burning computer. This e-waste hoax never stops giving.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 6 months ago | (#46969853)

The key component is: Education.

With the Internet, and a proper software suite, you can learn anything known to man.

The software suite isn't there yet, but that's okay, neither are the computers and connectivity.

The world is working towards them meeting though.

Some say it will happen through smart phones over computers though.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (2)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46969969)

Problems: No food, no water, no money, no electricity. Anything not nailed down is stolen, anybody who has a claw hammer steals everything else.
If you want to help these people, you get them something from the following list:
More of the straws that filter out the guinea worm. Google the guinea worm yourself, it is a horrid way to die.
Clean drinking water
Food
A permanent shelter to live in
And if you have any of those three things, expect to have to defend it with tooth and claw because someone with a gun will shoot you for it.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 6 months ago | (#46970149)

Oh most definitely, we should all be working as hard as we can at a moral job, living a frugal life, and donating to the poor. World Hunger is a problem that is going away, the more we can donate to nonprofits, the quicker world hunger goes away. Sanitation and farming give long term solutions. Only 33 cents a day saves a life, so anything we can do to help, we should.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 6 months ago | (#46970313)

If you want to help these people, you get them something from the following list:

Sure, why not?

Unfortunately, you appear to believe that you can only do one thing at a time? Some reason that you cannot do things concurrently? If so then you can help them live longer and give them your old computer. At the same time. It's amazing!

Imagine if you will.......

Some African goes to the internet - say Youtube.p> He or she sees a Youtube video about making clean drinking water

He or she sees a Youtube video about growing Food with implementable ideas

He or she sees a Youtube video about making a good shelter

That's just Youtube. They can get information via email orrelevant webpages. All manner of things. Information is a very powerful thing.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970065)

The key component is: Education.

With the Internet, and a proper software suite, you can learn anything known to man.

The software suite isn't there yet, but that's okay, neither are the computers and connectivity.

The world is working towards them meeting though.

Some say it will happen through smart phones over computers though.

In which case why aren't text-based applications good enough to use for access to educational material? The World Wide Web for all its advances in content presentation has ruined education be focusing on pretty pictures instead of knowledge-based content as found in ancient things called books. In many ways I preferred the early days of the public Internet when most content was strictly textual.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 6 months ago | (#46969915)

Africa is a pretty damn big place, it's a whole continent full of different nations. In this case we're talking about Kenya, the last conflict of note was in 2007-2008 and ended in 800-1500 killed, before that 60 were killed in 2005 and before that there's nothing of note since the 1980s and this is in a country of 44 million people and seem to have a reasonably functioning but rather corrupt democracy. The literacy rate is 85%, they don't seem to be short on food or shelter but they seem to have a way to go on sanitation and healthcare. Sounds to me like they're at the right level and what's wrong with making them call center workers? English is an official language and it could bring potentially very good money into their economy, even if only the "elite" speak English well enough to do it. Not adjusted for purchasing power they have a GDP per person of $1017/year.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (5, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 months ago | (#46969925)

Don't you understand? They got $40,000 on Indiegogo and all they had to do was give an African village 5 old worthless broken computers and a few flash drives. Clearly this is a life lesson for the starving Africans. If they would just take something that has already been done many times before and claim it was new, and send their old trash to someone else, the chumps on Indiegogo might give them $40,000 too. That's over 54 years worth of African wages. If the Africans are too focused on how to get food, somewhat clean water and staying alive to follow this example, then its not my problem. They should learn from this and, now that they have flash drives and those 5 crappy computers, go on Indiegogo and post some scam of their own.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 6 months ago | (#46970265)

Bravo. I wish I had mod points. Running an OS off a USB stick is not exactly novel - it's been done for years. I can remember my first experiments with Knoppix and a persistent home directory, maybe 5 or 6 years ago.
The one thing that's novel is exploting this idea to make money.

Knowledge is power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970051)

Give the people the knowledge and they will take their lives into their own hands, away from the governments, so-called "revolutionaries" and less-than-helpful charities.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about 6 months ago | (#46970061)

Can someone explain to me what dumping piles and piles of computers into Africa is going to accomplish? In Africa I see waves of ethnic turmoil coupled with basic infrastructure problems, all played by the governments to keep a few powerful folks in power. Are we trying to turn Africa into our next call center and need to get the kids up to speed with computers? I don't think that is going to happen until something resembling stability (i.e. taking care of food, clothing and shelter for entire years without fear of a machete attack) takes hold.

What they are hoping to accomplish is that the will all be able to connect to sites like MIT Opencourseware, learn science and engineering and find the cure to cancer and invent technology for cheap limitless renewable energy.

The result will probably be lot less but how much less is what is up for debate. Since we can't see the future, we don't know.

So, the point is, somebody is doing something to help. Be constructive and lend help if you can. Snarking isn't helping anyone.

They only raised shit money (5, Insightful)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 months ago | (#46970063)

Seriously.

LIVE USB stick.

What a great new idea!

Free OS! What a great new idea.

Promises of being able to use an old PC. What a great new idea!

Fact is running OS from USB stick is slow as fuck and if you already have a PC why not install it on the HDD in said PC? Now they said personal and fine. Are there a requirement for that? Maybe they could store their files on the USB stick instead? both is ok.

How do they get actual Internet connection?

What about electricity?

If they have limited electricity then something more modern would likely be better.

Also how do they take care of old electronic goods in Africa? Environmental safe recycling? ..

Re:They only raised shit money (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 months ago | (#46970089)

.. also WTF is this doing on the front page of /.

If you've never heard about running a free (?) OS from a USB stick what are you doing at /. to begin with?

No I won't sponsor your project. Slashvertisment?

Re:They only raised shit money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970145)

Yeah, it made the front page of the BBC, obviously a slashvertisement. You tosser.

Re:They only raised shit money (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 months ago | (#46970305)

BBC isn't news for nerds.

Well, Slashdot don't claim to be any longer either but it used to be.

And nerds don't get excited about "someone have put an OS on a usb stick and want to sell it" (No I haven't RTFA and I don't know if they are collecting money as a charity to give people drives or are selling the actual drives or what they want to raise money for or what OS it will run and whatever the OS will be a free one but I guess so. As said this is Slashdot and I'm a regular and we don't read the fucking articles we possibly read the summary and then we go into the comments - read and post!)

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46970177)

Can someone explain to me what dumping piles and piles of computers into Africa is going to accomplish?

In Africa I see waves of ethnic turmoil coupled with basic infrastructure problems, all played by the governments to keep a few powerful folks in power.

Are we trying to turn Africa into our next call center and need to get the kids up to speed with computers? I don't think that is going to happen until something resembling stability (i.e. taking care of food, clothing and shelter for entire years without fear of a machete attack) takes hold.

Congratulations on never have been to Africa. I had the same attitude as you until I went myself. Africans, in general, are extremely nice people (granted, I only met a few hundred of the untold multitudes) Far more genial than anyone in the west. Their continent boasts one of the most diverse populations on earth. While they are all "Black" they are subdivided into hundreds of small ethnic groups. Look at an Ethiopian and a South African and it becomes immediately apparent that they are both about as different as the Japanese are from Americans. Despite all of this they have relatively few disputes.

Unfortunately, as is with most ethinic wars, the west has decided to step in and save them. As a result wester powers fight proxy wars through Africa. Each opposing western power funds warlords they think they can control. Furnishing them with money and guns. Eventually the warlords do what warlords do and commit atrosities. The west pretends to be appalled and goes on funding the war, trying to rig progress in that country to lead to their desired outcome.

Africa is an amazing place. You should go. You wont die, people there are nice and will look out for you. $100 cash will buy you damn near anything on the continent so it'll be a cheap trip. I highly recommend it. It was life changing for me.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970197)

don't think that is going to happen until something resembling stability (i.e. taking care of food, clothing and shelter for entire years without fear of a machete attack) takes hold.

We are busy destabilizing Africa, and the middle east to chase Chinese investors out. The very last thing the UK/US and Europe want is a stable Africa right now.

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#46970201)

In Africa I see waves of ethnic turmoil coupled with basic infrastructure problems, all played by the governments to keep a few powerful folks in power.

Yes, it apparently is hard for Americans to understand that Africa is a continent, with many countries (48 of them, actually), and that they're all different.

This might help a little:
http://africa.dlora.nl/mapverg... [dlora.nl]

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#46970215)

with many countries (48 of them, actually)

(I should add: that's for the mainland, not counting the island nations, and not counting several disputed states.)

Re:How is Burying Africa Under PCs Going to Help? (1)

complete loony (663508) | about 6 months ago | (#46970213)

If you can find someone motivated to use them, anything could happen [wikipedia.org] .

"Insightful" person generalises across entire cont (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970437)

Slashdot problem in a nutshell.

Seriously though: Libya and Egypt are in Africa (OK so Egypt is also in Asia, bloody showoff). Africa is not one single monolithic entity. And actually apart from a couple of states - DR Congo being the most obvious, the Central African Republic being another - it's developing, progressing and solving problems at a rate literally unseen in human history (even China, which was really only temporarily held back by a revolution). Huge chunks of Africa doesn't match your stereotype of 'fear of a machete attack'. Can you say that most of America goes entire years without fear of a family member being in a mall shooting, a school shooting, an office shooting?

Yes, there are conflicts. The solution to which (coincidentally also the solution to overpopulation, disease, malnutrition) is education.

"Poor People"? (1)

ctheme (2694307) | about 6 months ago | (#46969675)

Who are these people? What is so poor about them?

Are they in poor condition? Did they perform poorly in school? Are they pitiable in the sense of being a poor, poor person? Are they generally inferior to other people, who are superior people?
Or maybe the titles is referring to Kenyan laborers who earn less than $2 a day and live in corrugated-steel shanties in one of the more impoverished districts of Nairobi which only gained access to electricity two years ago.

Maybe not. In any case, I prefer to imagine myself not being one of these "poor" people. Sounds rotten.

OS on a stick is not novel (5, Insightful)

Artifex (18308) | about 6 months ago | (#46969719)

We have other OS distributions that that live just fine on SD cards or sticks, already. If you want to bring computing to slums as a useful resource, the big problems are probably really:

1) actual hardware, shared or not, to run whatever open source OS you pick;
2) electricity to run the hardware and shelter for the hardware;
3) people to train those who have never used computers before, may have other literacy issues besides, and quite possibly speak dialects you will have difficulty getting localization for; and
4) affordable/free network access if these people want to use the internet.

I'll bet these are not the only issues, but if you don't address these, I suspect your money and time will be mostly wasted.

Re:OS on a stick is not novel (1)

Todd Palin (1402501) | about 6 months ago | (#46969741)

I was thinking the same thing, but you said it better than I could have. (you also said it first)

Mod this one up.

Re:OS on a stick is not novel (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46969885)

There's different ways of measuring the success or "waste percentage" of a program like this. Just putting two boots on the ground costs more than hundreds of these USB sticks, so, if you can air-drop a thousand of them and only 10 find actual use, you're still doing better, efficiency wise, than hand delivering them and successfully personally training 10 people how to use them.

If a village has a solar powered "computer center" with a satellite internet link and 3 ten year old PCs that these sticks can work in, all people within walking distance of that computer center have potential access to a miracle greater than the mythical Oracle at Delphi. Yes, people will have to learn a western language to access most information, yes it would be slicker if they had a satellite linked laptop with a urine powered battery that they could carry with them, but with $40K in funding, this project has the potential to positively impact a few thousand lives, figuring 10 people benefiting from every one that gains useful information from the internet.

Maybe it catches on as a fad and thousands upon thousands start to access computers and the internet this way, probably not, but for the same investment level as a project to put a drinking well into a couple of villages, this project can have a different positive impact on a larger number of people - who might learn how to dig their own wells, among other things.

Re:OS on a stick is not novel (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46969975)

I'd like to know how reasonable that scenario is. This whole thing centers on having Internet access. A sat link in the middle of nowhere is fine, but whose paying for it? I am willing to bet that it will be the connect costs, rather than PC costs that are going to be the limiting factor.

Unless somebody else is scrounging up old networking gear and helping poor Africans pay for an ISP to link to the backbone, all they can do is play games and type of resumes. In parts of Africa, the cell phone network is going up before anything else - I suppose that one could use that system as an ISP, but you still have to answer the question of who pays for it.

Re:OS on a stick is not novel (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46970017)

Well, this is a way to leverage a satellite link and make it more accessible to a larger number of people, not to mention allowing them to store their personally obtained information and carry it with them, and even access it later when at a location or time when sat link isn't available.

I don't think this will bring about world peace or end starvation and suffering, but it does strike me as a damn practical thing to try with $40K, something different than another missionary program to go dig a well and hand out bibles.

Re:OS on a stick is not novel (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 6 months ago | (#46970353)

Yeah, with somebody else' 40k.

Requires computer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969743)

People in 3rd world use cell phones for Internet. This is silly idea

pointless? (5, Insightful)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 6 months ago | (#46969753)

Perhaps it is just me, but I fail to see any benefit to this whatsoever. seems completely pointless, everything from windows to many distros of linux already can run on a USB stick and a USB stick doesn't solve the problem of internet access, a computer or more importantly the food and water they lack. I guess at least it gives them something to sell at the markets for a couple of bucks to buy something useful.

Re:pointless? (3, Informative)

Nyder (754090) | about 6 months ago | (#46969791)

Perhaps it is just me, but I fail to see any benefit to this whatsoever. seems completely pointless, everything from windows to many distros of linux already can run on a USB stick and a USB stick doesn't solve the problem of internet access, a computer or more importantly the food and water they lack. I guess at least it gives them something to sell at the markets for a couple of bucks to buy something useful.

This is the modern day Sally Struthers. Instead of parading little starving kids across the TV, we have "tech" solutions to make our selves better for how life is in Africa since we really do NOTHING to help have a better life.

Because we know having access to computers & internet are going to feed their starving children, just like it feeds ours.

This is how people think they are helping the poor countries by making shit they really have no use for, but it makes us feel better about them starving. Doesn't fix the starving mind you, but it makes us feel better. Not them, but US.

Re:pointless? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46969913)

Access to the internet allowed me to file for unemployment benefits while on holidays visiting my family, yes, my employer laid off the entire company essentially the day before Christmas holidays. My grandmother is 96, and I did not feel like cancelling our Christmas visit just because my ex-boss couldn't make payroll nor bring himself to give advance notice of the true nature of the impending problem. In a non-computer-access world, I, sole income for a family of four, would have missed a couple of weeks of benefits, or missed visiting my Grandmother. The same kind of access allowed me to find a new company to work for in just a few weeks, instead of reading want-ads in the paper on a week to week cycle.

So, I could see access to networked information in Africa potentially informing the people of where food and work is available more efficiently than the present systems in a similar manner.

Re:pointless? (2)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46969983)

Then get people cell phones with SMS options. They are portable, easily charged and CHEAP.

Re:pointless? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46969995)

I had world-class telephone access back in 1988 when I was looking for work also... the internet is better.

Re:pointless? (1)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46970217)

But in Africa, cell phone towers are popular and the internet is expensive and in limited areas.

Re:pointless? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46969985)

So, I could see access to networked information in Africa potentially informing the people of where food and work is available more efficiently than the present systems in a similar manner.

Agreed. Butt that isn't what this show is about. All they're giving people are the terminals.

Re:pointless? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46970009)

The terminals could be networked, or not, as local infrastructure supports... This isn't a panacea, but $40K is a trivial amount of money to get hung up on how it is spent - if these Indegogo funders want to do this, it's a hell of a lot better than an art project to put pink bands around the islands in Biscayne Bay.

Re:pointless? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 6 months ago | (#46970189)

It actually reminds me of religious missionaries. Tell a church there are starving people with no food or water, serious medical problems, no technology or internet or religion and all they hear is "what they haven't found god yet, we better fix that so they can die in peace", I.T. people are sadly similar, rather than fix the underlying economic and poverty conditions they see the "no technology or internet" as the key thing that needs addressing.

Re:pointless? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970237)

... windows ... already can run on a USB stick ...

Somewhat OT, but: can you provide references for this statement?

I have never heard of Windows being able to actively run from a USB stick; Windows 7 and newer (and possibly Vista, I forget) can be installed from a USB stick, but to my knowledge they will not run from a USB stick. If you know how to make this happen (note: ISOLINUX has no bearing here), I would love to know how.

Re:pointless? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 6 months ago | (#46970257)

Re:pointless? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 6 months ago | (#46970357)

replying to myself with more info!
I have been running windows 7 embedded of bootable USB media for years now. makes for an excellent portable system with all my tools for fixing family windows machines on them. You can also manually create Windows 2 Go with win 8 pro manually so it doesn't have to be enterprise version (or at least you used to be able to, have not done that for a while).
http://technet.microsoft.com/e... [microsoft.com]

any computer??? (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 6 months ago | (#46969785)

Some older systems can't boot usb and other need bios updates to do it.

also what about drivers for all of there hardware?

Completely Pointless (2)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46969801)

This is a solution in need a problem. Until the people in impoverished countries have some other things first, a USB stick that can reboot dead computers is kind of insulting.

How about we provide (in this order):
1. Food, shelter, sleep, and sex.
2. Security, employment, health, morality.
3. Friendship and family
4. Self-Esteem
5. Self-actualization

Until all of items in group 1 and most of the items in group 2 are secured, self booting: internet USB sticks is like trying to teach dog to play banjo.
And this is assuming that the local infrastructure can support USB booted computers for internet access.

Re:Completely Pointless (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 6 months ago | (#46969921)

Ah, but you only need a single banjo playing dog to entertain thousands of people...

Re:Completely Pointless (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46969963)

Information from the Internet can be used to help obtain "employment, health, morality".

Re:Completely Pointless (1)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46969993)

Does it get food and potable water?

Copepods, gotta catch 'em all with folded cloth (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46970023)

Yes, Internet access gets information useful for acquiring "food and potable water". It gets how to MacGyver up a water pathogen trap out of cloth [wikipedia.org] . And it gets learning materials for how to grow an effective vegetable garden [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Copepods, gotta catch 'em all with folded cloth (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46970169)

Access to truth over accepted wisdom, conventional or otherwise, is a life changing event for the open mind.

There is some elaborate conjecture regarding our intellectual superiority over all the mammals, and this selfsame overcompensation is present regarding the African people in more minds than most folks would be willing to admit.

How could access to the combined knowledge of the human race not help you?

Re:Copepods, gotta catch 'em all with folded cloth (1)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46970269)

Some of these areas are so poor that if you show *any* signs of attempting to improve yourself, or get up in the world you will be beaten, or killed for attempting to upset the current powers that be. And since powers that be are the local strongman, warlord or government you keep your head down and avoid drawing the attention of the guys with guns.
That's an awfully nice garden you have there, mind if I take all the fruit off of it? And sometimes not even that, just having to defend your improvements from the locals who want your improvements for yourself.

Re:Copepods, gotta catch 'em all with folded cloth (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46970315)

just having to defend your improvements from the locals who want your improvements for yourself.

"You want your own victory garden? Here, I'll show you how to make one."

Re:Copepods, gotta catch 'em all with folded cloth (1)

Elfich47 (703900) | about 6 months ago | (#46970377)

I hate to sound dumb but, where you do plan on finding the seed to start these gardens, let alone the water infrastructure?

Sometimes, no computer is needed (1)

zoffdino (848658) | about 6 months ago | (#46969809)

These people don't need computer, they need food. The project founders seem to assume a lot: that there's electricity in the slums, that they can pay for it, that the computers won't be taken apart for the little scrape metal they hold, that the slums won't turn into a new dump for e-waste, that people are literate enough to use a computer or do anything useful with one (reading local news, for e.g.), etc.

$7 is almost 4 days of work for those poor people. I would rather see charities spend it on food than computers and training.

Smart(ish) phones and solar chargers (1)

BaronM (122102) | about 6 months ago | (#46969851)

Not that I actually think this is a great idea, but if we really want to bring people online, why not aim for a device that can actually get them online rather than a USB stick that requires a complete PC with network connectivity to do so. By contrast, a low-end smart phone can:

1. Be had for ~$100 USD in quantity 1 ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B00CKUBLFQ/ref=sr_1_1_olp?ie=UTF8&qid=1399770265&sr=8-1&keywords=windows+phone+unlocked&condition=new ). Call it $75 USD in large quantity
2. Can get online without any other equipment
3. Can be practically recharged with a cheap solar panel
4. Can be used for mobile payment networks that are very popular in the developing world

Yeah, I know that $75 is an order of magnitude greater than $7, but it seems like a far wiser use of funds if you feel the need to buy and supply electronics instead of clean water.

Re:Smart(ish) phones and solar chargers (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46970337)

Are you out of your mind?

I can buy an Android smartphone right at WalMart for $40. Single quantity, who knows what the price break would be for large quantities.

That's not a 'sponsored' price, I can take it and use it with just WiFi as if it was an iPod touch if I like.

Cell/Data then costs $35 a month (Virgin Mobile) and it's month-by-month no contract.

Why did you pick a Windows phone at Amazon for your example? To be ironic?

Mixed feelings (2)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about 6 months ago | (#46969891)

As a geek I love the idea, but to the dirt poor and especially in the third world $7 could go towards more pressing needs like sanitation, clean water and medicine. There are many problems the poor of the world face. We can fix more than one problem at a time, but lack of Internet access is no where close to the #1 position - unless those kidnapped Nigerian girls can adapt a USB stick into an improvised weapon. Problem when the only tool you know how to use is a hammer every problem looks like a nail, and geeks are geeks.

PS Saw a funny motivational of this pic lamenting the poor kid was being deprived of the joys of facebook and twitter: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

Did anybody read the story? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46969899)

As we all know this is Slashdot and what the summary says can radically differ from what they are doing or trying to do. If your going to criticize you might want to read the article first, and second, I damn well know there are few people here even trying to make a difference. While there are some obvious problems it's gotten farther than most projects. Just raising the $40,000 or so is a significant step in the right direction. There are many projects with dedicated people that barely operate with little to no resources. How much did you contribute to ANY effort this year? Yea- I didn't think so.

Re:Did anybody read the story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970067)

I read the article, while it is a little different to the summary. It still seems a pretty pointless project. Still sees them lacking essential resources. The only thing this resolves is old computers that are poorly configured. If that was even in the top 100 issues facing these people I would be truly shocked.

If we really want to help Africa... (3, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | about 6 months ago | (#46970069)

If we in the west really want to help Africa, there are a few things we can do right here that will make a difference. Eliminate agricultural subsidies, stop buying African diamonds, and stop using cheap African-sourced conflict minerals. Right now food prices are so artificially low that African farmers can't afford to grow food for their own countries. It's quite literally cheaper to buy food from abroad than to grow it locally. And the US is happy to give Africa food. In exchange for favors. Food quite literally has become a weapon and it's certainly part of what keeps Africa in a cycle of poverty and abuse. Meanwhile China has been buying up farm land in China to raise food that will be exported from Africa without really benefiting Africans themselves, except for a few that directly benefit.

Conflict minerals, including diamonds, also concentrate a tremendous amount of African wealth in the hands of just a very few who are quite happy to use this wealth to buy whole governments. Most times they *are* the governments. But hey, as long as we can get cheap goods made in China with cheap African resources, life is good, right?

But I guess my idea to not buy diamonds and kill the farm bill has about as much merit as handing out usb sticks after all. I doubt western policies that hurt Africa are going to change any time soon. Good luck to these folk. I'm personally quite skeptical.

Re:If we really want to help Africa... (2)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 6 months ago | (#46970129)

Look, you probably don't realize this but everything you said is horseshit. You just don't know why.

The countries that have risen from out of the abyss in the last 30 years did it through jobs relating to export (Look at East Asia).

Exporting things to the rest of the world.

And let me tell you, food is certainly not what Africa will be exporting --- the rest of the world has heavy machinery that reduces the costs of food, Africa will never be able to compete against heavily capitalized nations in cost of food prices in production.

The permanently screwed up countries sell simple natural resources --- oil, diamonds, whatever --- and to fix Africa they need to be exporting something that is a product of at least semi-skilled labor.

Even child shoe assembly factories would be a start, as grotesque as that sounds.

Re:If we really want to help Africa... (1)

caseih (160668) | about 6 months ago | (#46970209)

You're completely misunderstanding what I'm saying. I'm not saying Africa is going to be a bread basket exporter of food. I'm simply talking about principles of self-sufficiency. Growing one's own food internally is one thing that can break the poverty cycle (if only the attitude part). Look, many people in Africa are completely dependent on western handouts, which wouldn't be so bad but for the strings attached to the food which western nations do pull on a regular basis. That's what I'm getting at.

Perhaps my sarcastic remark about cheap goods from China misled you, but I never said anything about export-related jobs and Africa. You are correct about that of course. But it simply wasn't a part of my comment.

Either way we both seem to agree that handing out USB sticks to work with garbage computers we dump on them isn't going to do a thing to help with poverty.

Food is 'certainly not' what Africa will be export (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46970467)

Entirely wrong.

UK supermarkets stock quite a lot of food that is grown in Africa. Broccoli is routinely grown in Ethopia, which is actually a green and enormously fertile country for most of the time. We also buy new potatoes that are grown in the sand in Egypt. Fruit generally (not just exotic fruit) comes from Morocco and Tanzania.

There are large scale food exporters in Africa doing pretty darn good business in Europe.

Once again: "Africa" is a continent. It's freaking enormous. Fortunes vary wildly.

Cool! (1)

AndyKron (937105) | about 6 months ago | (#46970121)

So we can dump our old computers on them soon? Cool!
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