A Feasibility analysis of VSAT internet in rural communities

Yoke, Jonathan, Department of Computer Engineering, University of Virginia
Cohen, Benjamin, Department of Science, Technology, and Society, University of Virginia
Gorman, Michael, En-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Jerolimov, Douglas, Department of Science, Technology, and Society, University of Virginia

Executive Summary

The purpose of my STS and Technical Theses were to address some of the issues surrounding the development and deployment of the Internet as a tool for alleviating poverty in rural areas of developing countries. The importance of Information and Communication Technologies as a way of increasing economic growth has been widely demonstrated. It is believed by many Non-Governmental Organizations and international non-profits that public access to the Internet can serve this purpose. Due to available expertise and perceived need my technical thesis focuses on the use of Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite internet in these rural areas. My STS thesis focuses on what sorts of social issues surround the introduction of a first-world technology like the internet to rural Latin America.

The most remote locations in the world have no infrastructure at all. The only way to connect to the Internet backbone is by a VSAT. These areas also tend to be some of the most impoverished places in the world. Several organizations have tried to provide internet via VSATs to these areas. Some have failed, some have exceeded expectations and some are still struggling. My technical thesis is part of a larger project at the University of Virginia. Our group hopes to eventually develop technologies to help these organizations succeed. I have analyzed what they have already done and how our group might help address the problems they face.

However, no matter how low-cost and reliable an internet technology is, it will not be adopted without giving consideration to the needs of its target audience. My STS thesis aims to discover how the technology of the internet can be appropriately transferred to rural areas of developing countries. By looking at the trends of who uses public access to the Internet and what they use it for we can learn how this technology has impacted the local communities and how it might better be implemented in the future.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

Includes: A Serious Game that Models how Technologies and Societies Interact with the Environment: A Thesis Prospectus in STS 401; March 25, 2009

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