This is a few months old, but I hadn't seen it before, had you? The idea is to build a station just beyond the moon, at a "liberation point," a place where the combined gravitational forces from nearby bodies can act as a launch booster for deep space missions.
#sciencesunday #space #nasa #astronomy #spaceexploration
I understand that the new iPhone is coming next week. Interesting. But not as interesting to me right now as what's happening in Awombrew, Ghana. That's where I am right now, in the middle of a two-week mission trip to support their community's school with construction, education and computer services.
Awombrew is a lucky village in its own way. Its mission school has been up and running for several years, now, and has made great progress. But more always needs to be done to keep things moving in a positive direction. This year, building a concrete courtyard is a key activity, to ensure that the children have a place to have positive activities. I see bringing in the Web to the village as one more key activity.
While Ghana is as challenged as many developing nations when it comes to providing services, jobs and a future for many of its citizens, it's actually a place that has a great deal of hope, energy and possibilities. Everywhere you look there are people being entrepreneurial and trying to move forward.
Clearly mobile communications are helping to change the economy here as much as in many nations in Africa. People are very industrious, with building projects large and small sprouting up everywhere, and you can hardly go a kilometer or so without seeing several roadside kiosks selling airtime cards or mobile phones for one of Ghana's major mobile phone carriers.
Rural market towns like Oda may look rough by Western standards, but they are bristling with hard goods, banks and lots of computer and mobile equipment vendors. Just a few miles from Awombrew on the road to Winneba, an oceanside fishing community and university town where our mission group is staying, is an Internet cafe in the middle of nowhere, with chickens floating in and out but great connectivity when it's not too crowded.
What delivers that connectivity is 10 megabit landline broadband Internet service coming up the road from Winneba.
In the meantime, what to do? When we got to the school for our first day of work, we went through boxes of equipment that had been donated to the village and discovered a wireless access point and two Internet wireless routers. I had been hoping to find that WAP, because that means it can hook up to a wireless signal from a mobile phone with a wifi hotspot - which I happened to have with me.
George, the local tech with me, also had a phone with a wifi hotspot, but apparently his local phone company was not giving any wifi hotspot service through it. So off I went to Accra in a taxicab, hoping to bet my phone commissioned with a local SIM card equipped for data.
Going to Accra in a cab is not an easy journey in general, given the roads, the in-street markets and the traffic, but it's especially hard when you're a part of a seventeen-person mission group. There are priorities and needs to be balanced, so it was only when I was able to convince our group leader that this was the only possible way to get the network working, he finally relented, which was quite generous.
At the MTN store I was served well, and picked up a 4GB monthly prepaid plan (8GB between 1-5AM) for about $30. I tested the wifi hotspot and it worked great - in fact, most of Accra is rocking on HPSA+ service, which kept me pretty productive in the cab back to our hotel. But as we approached the EDGE/2G service areas, wifi hotspot service dried up, even though data service via my phone was working pretty well. It appears that there is traffic routing management that keeps non-mobile Web browsing off of 2G networks. This pretty well ended our testing plans for the village. I noticed another network with a phone credit kiosk in the village, so perhaps changing networks will help.
I then shifted into the classrooms, where I observed a second grade teacher's lessons. Her biggest plea: pencils and books. The teaching materials are appropriate, but materials to practice reading are sparse. While I appreciate people trying to put Kindle ebook readers into the hands of kids in places like Awombrew, I don't think that this is the right model - these villages can't afford Western content packaging. They need open source and/or far more affordable materials. Books, I hope that you're listening.
The best part of the trip, of course, is the people who we meet. The children are so hungry for the opportunity to learn, and the adults, while uncertain of our presence, are grateful for our help. My real hope for Awombrew is to use Internet technologies to help them do what they want to do better - not to force a specific model on them. To do this properly, we need to engage the adults in the village with these technologies also and to help them to learn how to use them to accomplish their goals, too.
At the same time, of course, we have an enormous amount to learn from them, also. We are all one, as the village leader pointed out when we were welcomed into their community, and we all must learn a great deal from one another. I have enormous hope for Ghana, and so too do the people of Ghana, it would seem. There are many challenges, but great opportunities also. More to come.
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