UW Prof Helps Spread Internet Access In The Developing World

University of Waterloo computer science professor Srinivasan Keshav is on a mission to connect the developing world to the net. His projects focus on increasing communications and web access in developing areas too remote or poor for traditional internet access.

Cell phone use is common in developing countries, cheap cell phones and cell phone plans have already had a large impact in opening up remote communities. Although texting and voice access is readily available many of the phones are not capable of accessing the internet due to expensive data plans or lack of infrastructure. Keshav hopes to bring e-mail to these mobile customers by allowing them to write e-mails via text message. This sort of service makes e-mail accessible both in price and location to billions of people in developing countries.

Another innovation Keshav is working on is VLink, a memory stick which can securely transfer data from one computer to the next. This would allow people in a town without net access to save their e-mails or other documents on VLink and when possible upload their data to a web enabled computer.

VLink secures and encrypts information so sensitive information can be safely held on it. Rural residents could put financial, agricultural, educational and personal data on their VLink. The memory sticks are reliable, cheap and resistant to heat making them ideal for rugged conditions. The VLink project is currently being tested in parts of India.