A VoIP communication system via a mesh network of wireless routers... that are solar powered... in remote mountain villages.... home-built. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? That's what I thought anyway, so when a very good friend of mine told me he'd be researching, designing and building such a thing over the next couple years, I insisted that he share his experience with me via email as it progresses. Thankfully, he agreed.
"Even better," I said, "blog about it on The Tech Report." The non-profit NGO with which he's working is very cautious about sharing details like names and locations of their aid projects, so he was reluctant to publish it in such a public forum. As we discussed the benefits that could come from opening this project up to comment and assistance from a broad community of techies, he decided it was worth it. Additionally, he's excited to be able to give something back to the Internet community from which he has gained so much.
So over the next few months (or maybe years), he'll be blogging about his research, tests, and (hopefully) a successful deployment of this "village wireless VoIP" project. Right now he's in the US gathering data and trying to build a small-scale working prototype. He has already jotted down several notes, which we'll be posting in the next few days. Soon he'll be moving back to the location where the full-scale system is to be built. Although the people of the villages in which he'll be working feel a real need for communications, there are elements in the broader region and culture that are suspicious of and sometimes opposed to technology and foreign assistance, so we have agreed to let him publish under the nickname "wirelesh."
I don't want to tell any more of his story, since his account should be far more interesting, so head over to "Voice in the Mountains" for a brief overview of the project. Then check back regularly, because he has been working on this for a few months already and we'll be publishing his notes with frequent updates here at the beginning. We invite anyone with experience or knowledge of any aspect of the project to offer their ideas and expertise. Once he completes his research in the U.S., the posts may become sporadic, since his communication options are severely limited in the area... thus the need for a project like this.