How Open Source Software and Wireless Networks are Transforming Two Cultures: An Investigation in Urban North America and Rural Africa
In 2007 Nokia shipped its third-generation Internet tablet in the United States. In the same year the first XO laptops have been delivered to the poorest countries in Africa (and elsewhere) as part of the One Laptop Per Child initiative. These are just two products in a spectrum of mobile devices that are transforming distinct cultures that live and work on two different continents. We examine the enabling role that open source software and wireless networks play in the products and services that are being delivered to markets in North America and Africa. We describe how the hardware and software in networked devices have been customized to support applications that are as diverse as the people that are using them. In Urban North America the high-growth applications are in the arenas of entertainment and commerce. In contrast, the applications in rural Africa are focused on communication and education. We show that open source software and wireless networking are two important components in a core collection of synergistic technologies that are both extensible and customizable. Finally, we assess and compare the impact that the mobile devices based on this collection of technologies is having on two different cultures.
Keywords: Open Source Software (OSS), Wireless Networks, Mobile Applications
Dr. David J. Yates
Assistant Professor, Computer Information Systems, Bentley College
Lead Technical Analyst, Computer Sciences Corporation