I was interested to see a post over on Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin reporting that the Dalai Lama has issued a letter of support for the Air Jaldi Summit which is being held in Dharamsala (the home of the exiled Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees) in October to address ways in which affordable internet connections can be set-up in rural areas.
Dharamsala is the site of a successful community project run by the Tibetan Technology Centre who have created a growing wireless mesh network. A combination of "hacktivists" and Tibetan exiles have been working hard to to make this happen.
Mesh network technician Phuntsok Dorjee, 29, says the group has successfully installed some 30 nodes in Dharamsala that connect 2,000 computers since plugging in the first antenna in 2005 when Wi-Fi was legalized in India.
It's an awsome project and great that they are seeing such success. When I was in Dharamsala back in 1999 it was already clear that the Tibetan community were interested in getting on the internet as they had already established a internet centre. Even then it seemed like they were ahead of the rest of India as internet was a scarce commodity in 1999.
The Dalai Lama's letter really does make it clear how important this project is for opening up communication for those in the community:
I am very happy to offer my encouragement and support to the Air-Jaldi Wireless Summit to be convened in Dharamsala this coming October. Improved access to the internet is very important to the Tibetan people, and for all people of the developing world. The Internet's contribution to the diffusion and dissemination of knowledge and information is truly remarkable. By itself the internet cannot feed the poor, defend the oppressed or protect those subject to natural disasters, but by keeping us informed can allow those of us who have the opportunity to give whatever help we can.
The Air-Jaldi Wireless Summit promises to be a significant event bringing together many people from different parts of the world to focus on cutting-edge modes of communication. I am impressed to know that the fine work done here on the Dharamsala mesh network will attract so many distinguished guests.
I offer my greetings to everyone attending the Air-Jaldi Wireless Summit and pray that the fruits of your good work will be far-reaching and long lasting.
If you can, please either support this event directly or drop by tibtec.org and offer a donation. Anything you can give will help the Tibetan Technology Center to be able to extend their network further and to continue to be able to develop better and more monkey proof antennas!