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

Emerging Topics
Location: D137 Level: Novice
Average rating: *....
(1.00, 2 ratings)

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.

Thomas McGonagle

Bentley College/CSC Inc.

Tom is a 2005 graduate of the MSIT program at Bentley College. While there he served as the President of GITMA and developed the Watch City Wireless project which started as a graduate research project, but thanks to an interesting self-funding business model was operated for two years from 1/2005 – 1/2007.

Tom works full time on a large FAA technology contract as a Senior Technical Analyst. The system Tom works on is one of the largest Linux installations in the World. The system requires 24×7 support and Tom works 4PM-12AM.

Tom is actively involved in the Boston Wireless movement. He has worked as the organizer for the Boston WAG, and during the Summer of 2007 he submitted as Principle Investigator a large NSF wireless grant, which aimed to provide wireless networks and information technology training to teenagers and housing developments in Cambridge and Boston. The grant was well received by the NSF, and was thought to be incredibly innovative. The grant was ultimately not funded, but Tom plans on reapplying in 2008.

Since graduating from Bentley Tom has been teaching Linux Systems administration and networking engineering courses at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and IT101 and an advanced course on LAMP programming at Bentley College.

OSCON 2008