Dave Winer points today to a stimulating USA Today article sure to gladden Jeff Jarvis‘ heart, about Internet adoption and blogs in Iraq:
The article naturally describes the famous Salam Pax blog, now available in book form, (who’da thought?) and a photo album. It also cites two educated brothers, a dentist and a pediatrician, Omar and Ali Fadhil. They are pro-American and hugely grateful for the American intervention.
The two brothers jointly maintain their blog. In America, they’d earn about $30,000, monthly between them but USA Today reports that the average Iraqi doctor earns $150 per month. The typical price for connectivity at Baghdad’s proliferating Internet cafés is $1 per hour. That means some people are spending the equivalent of $1,000 per hour to update their blog. Doesn’t the blogosphere have an award for that level of dedication?
This is crazy. Broadband costs the US military nothing. They should be spreading GPRS or WiFi or WiMax everywhere, and handing out routers with the food rations. Hell, Linksys and Cisco could get a huge write-off by donating equipment for the Marines to distribute. Isn’t this called Yankee ingenuity? If the Iraqi wireless scene were data-friendly and cell modems cheap and plentiful, then the Iraqis might have a better use for the phones than for detonating IEDs.
Why kill people to pacify them when you can get them to sit down and engage each other constructively? Even if the Mayor of Salt Lake City is right, it’s worth it: he doesn’t support universal broadband because it causes people to get fat while they download music. At least they’re not shooting at us.
As Doc says, the three most important attributes of the Internet are infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.
At the International session at Bloggercon II on Saturday, I wondered why bloggers can’t take the initiative by acting globally and locally? Why not revive the sister city program, but conduct it at Internet speed, mediated by bloggers rather than chambers of commerce?
This would be a pure grassroots effort, with groups of bloggers in US cities and villages “adopting” similar-sized cities in Iraq and then donating equipment and connectivity so that Iraqis can get on the Internet and blog sell stuff on eBay and do some phone banking and all the rest. Since Iraqi is essentially a U.S. colony, why not issue them U.S. charge cards? The US should insure card issuers against losses–as good a use of some of those 87 billion dollars as cluster bombs.
Naturally, we’d have to get somebody to translate some blog software into Arabic, as Jeff Jarvis is Jonesing for. Joi? Loïc? Ethan? Ferris? Anyone? (Shameless plug for Open Republic: This is precisely the kind of well-defined, small project that the Open Republic project would whip out its checkbook for. There’s nothing like a paying client to grab a freelancer’s attention!)
Bloggers donated a lot of the $40,000,000 collected by Howard Dean’s campaign. We might be equally motivated to address problems directly rather than supporting someone else in the hope that they will find a solution.
Just a thought.