CROSSING A BORDER TO GET INTERNET ACCESS
Today, the first person I bumped into when I walked into the lobby of the hotel was none other than Bukeni Waruzi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. You can see one of the things he is involved in here - A Duty to Protect: Justice for Child Soldiers in the DRC. In fact, he was a bit surprised that I knew who he was, and that I could recognize him.
He's from Sud-Kivu - and he has to cross the national border to go to Burundi for internet access. There's no internet access where he lives, and it costs him about USD2 U.S. to get the paperwork to cross the border, plus transportation... and USD1 U.S. in that part of the world is a lot. He also told me that the capital, Kinshasa, is on the Western side of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - and he lives on the far eastern border. It would cost him USD1,000 to travel from one end of the country to the other3 - he's never been to Kinshasa (and I don't blame him at that cost!!). There's a wake up call.
In fact, to get here, he crossed the border into Burundi and flew out of there.Where he lives, there are no land lines. Everyone uses cell phones. And one of the projects he works with includes routing messages to the authorities when there are problems in villages - very similar to ARC, but without using SMS for the most part. This is a people-network, and is a very core way to do a network - a core which is lost on most geeks.
At 8:30 p.m., the entire convergence should be down at the outside pool to meet each other... But I think Bukeni has set the tone for me already. I'm hungry to hear more about the issues that other people are contending with.
I mean... imagine having to cross a border so you can access the Internet. That's a definite Digital Divide.