Providing Internet connectivity to all OLPC schools is probably one of the challenging issues yet to solve. Looking at the dissent statements on OLPC News, one can assume that especially in rural areas there won't be access for everyone very soon.
2-Way Satellite access, often the only option if infrastructure lacks, is very expensive, even if some satellite companies might give some bandwidth for free. Still, if some regions can't be reached with permanent connection (yet), why should they not have at least the possibility to browse web pages, do research or send emails asynchronously?
I am suggesting a solution where the users can be connected to the World Wide Web using a store-and forward concept with mechanical back-haul. This has been inspired by the pioneering work of United Villages, connecting telecentres in India.
This is how it can work:
A bus or other vehicle that regularly passes by the village/school is equipped with a wifi-capable server (can be a second-hand laptop) and acts as a "digital postman". It is used to carry data to and from a nearby town with internet access to the schools and automatically synchronizes data as soon as it comes into reach of the school-server.
The official OLPC school server OS will be supplemented with additional software (a web application) that provides a portal for asynchronous services such as:
- Browse through regularly updated websites
- Send and receive emails
- Upload content via ftp
- Do asynchronous internet searches
Pupils will be able to access and browse through the content on the server like they would with a regular Internet connection. But they are not restricted to that. They will also be able to send and receive emails and request information via a regular Google search.
More information on this project can be found on my OLPC blog.