The Outernet

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The Outernet

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How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge

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Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil…

Catherine …and I’m Catherine. Hello.

Neil Hello, Catherine! Now, how was your holiday?

Catherine My holiday was lovely, Neil. I was staying on a beautiful island. It was very remote and there was actually no internet access. So, I did feel quite cut off actually.

Neil And cut off means isolated. How did you survive, Catherine?

Catherine Well, it wasn’t easy. But I had my e-reader - that’s an electronic device which lets you store and read lots of books from the internet. And I read a lot of Harry Potter…

Neil Harry Potter? I know you like wizards, Catherine, but shouldn’t you have downloaded some classic literature? How about Shakespeare’s The Tempest? That’s got a wizard in it too.

Catherine Well, yes indeed. But Shakespeare on the beach isn’t quite right for me, Neil.

Neil Right. Well, today we’re talking about how the poorer and more remote - or distant - parts of the world can get access to learning.

Catherine That’s right. But before we start, Neil, I believe you have a quiz question for us.

Neil Yes, I do. I would like to know what the proportion of the world’s population that still has no internet access is. Is it…

a) a quarter? b) half? or c) two thirds?

Catherine I’m going to go for c) two thirds.

Neil Well, we’ll find out if you’re right or wrong later on in the programme. So Catherine, how can these people get connected to the internet and start surfing?

Catherine By using the Outernet.

Neil The Outer what?

Catherine The Outernet. That’s the idea of entrepreneur Syed Karim and its goal is to give people in unconnected communities access to information without having to use expensive mobile phones or two-way satellite networks.

Neil I see. And an entrepreneur , by the way, is a person who makes money by starting their own business that typically involves some financial risk.

Catherine Yes, I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of an entrepreneur.

Neil Well, you’ll need money and ideas, Catherine. Have you got either of those?

Catherine I’ve got ideas.

Neil Right. OK. I get it.

Catherine So, can you tell us how the Outernet works, Neil?

Neil Yes, I can. The Outernet uses existing communications satellites to store and broadcast data - broadcast means to send out signals or programmes. Special equipment on the ground picks up - or receives - the data, and this can be copied to phones and computers.

Catherine But the Outernet broadcasts data offline - which means it’s not connected to the Internet. There’s no communication with the internet for user - so, no emails, no chat forums. And that can be a big drawback - or disadvantage.

Neil Yes. The Outernet doesn’t provide two-way communication. But let’s hear Syed Karim discussing why one-way access has some advantages. And see if you can spot another word meaning ‘two-way’.

INSERT Syed Karim, business entrepreneur Anything that is related to bi-directional communications, the internet, to be able to provide that to the entire world, those are billion dollar projects, multi-billion dollar projects with huge time horizons and enormous complexity. And, you know, our solution that we are offering is instantaneous, I mean, it exists right now.

Neil Did you get it? Another way of saying two-way is bi-directional. So what are the advantages of one-way communication, Catherine?

Catherine It’s significantly cheaper. Bi-directional communications are multi-billion dollar projects. But the Outernet allows poorer communities to benefit from access to information.

Neil Yes, it does. And the other big problem is the time it would take to establish two-way access. Syed says these projects have huge time horizons - and this means the length of time it takes to complete a project - they’re huge, so very big.

Catherine But the Outernet is already providing access to some of the world’s most valuable knowledge.

Neil That’s right. The project aims to create a library of information taken from websites including Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg, which is a collection of copyright-free e-books. Copyright-free means the right to use material without paying any fees.

Catherine That sounds good. But let’s go back to the internet and hear from a BBC reporter talking about another project which aims to get people connected.

INSERT BBC reporter Google for example is working on Project Loon, a network of high-altitude helium balloons, which will boost Internet connections across much wider areas beyond coverage from conventional masts.

Neil It’s called Project Loon - meaning crazy - because Google thought it was such a crazy idea, and loon sounds like balloon!

Catherine Yeah. The idea is that users will connect to the balloon network - or group of interconnected balloons - using an antenna attached to their building. The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, and then to a station on the ground that’s connected to the Internet.

Neil The balloons will boost - or increase - the number of people who will be able to access the Internet.

Catherine Yes, it will. And that’s because there will be lots of them - compared to the number of masts - or tall metal towers that send and receive signals - that are currently used.

Neil OK, let’s have the answer to the quiz question I asked: What proportion of the world’s population still has no internet access? Is it … a) a quarter? b) half? or c) two thirds?

Catherine And I said c) two thirds.

Neil And you were right! The answer is two thirds. Well done, Catherine.

Catherine Thank you.

Neil Now just time to listen to today’s words once again. Catherine.

Catherine OK. We heard:

e-reader remote entrepreneur broadcast picks up drawback bi-directional one-way time horizons copyright-free balloon network boost masts

Neil Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. I hope you enjoyed connecting with us today! Please join us again soon.

Both Bye.

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