Phase 3 (2007 Deadline)
Technology for the Poor: Low-Cost Information and Computing Technology for the Masses in Pakistan
Eric Brewer, University of California, Berkeley
Photo courtesy of Dr. Eric Brewer and Dr. Umar Saif.
Umar Saif, Lahore University of Management Sciences
Pakistani Funding (HEC): $ 96,000
US Funding (State): $ 220,000
Project Dates on US Side: July 1, 2008 - June 30, 2011
This project involved a multidisciplinary collaboration between University of California, Berkeley’s successful TIER program (Technology Infrastructure for Emerging Regions) and the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), as well as other public and private stakeholders in Pakistan. Efforts focused on transferring to Pakistan technologies that TIER has provided to partners in Ghana, Cambodia, India, Rwanda, and Mexico in its previous work. Specifically, the first phase of the project deployed, extended, and evaluated two basic technologies developed by the TIER program to Pakistan—low-cost Wi-Fi wireless mesh networks and “sneaker-net” delay-tolerant-network (DTN) protocols for networking semi-urban and rural regions. Dr. Brewer and Dr. Saif ultimately plan to apply the technologies to expanding telemedicine services for the Pakistani population, and to this end Dr. Saif has established a partnership with SEVA, a U.S. non-profit that facilitates eye care in developing regions, including Pakistan. During the summer of 2010, the Pakistani partners on this project organized two one-day workshops on the use of TIER Wild Links to train NGOs in Pakistan for setting up mobile health centers during the severe floods. Following that, the TIER Wi-Fi links developed by Berkeley were deployed in Pakistan in the suburbs of the district of Muzaffargarh to connect two mobile healthcare facilities with doctors in a Basic Health Unit (BHU) some 10 km way. During the 3-week deployment in September 2010, the mobile health clinics helped treat more than 300 patients.
- Set up a low-cost campus-wide telecom network at LUMS as a model for a "telecom-in-a-box" service that could be set up quickly in a disaster-hit area using off-the-shelf components and a solar-powered base station
- Developed a new version of a network (JaldiMAC) that will enable point-to-multipoint networks that cost less than pure point-to-point deployments
- Developed partnerships with Pakistani wireless company Zong Telecom and with NGOs in the Mozafargarh (Punjab) area to deploy and test various technologies developed under the project
- Provided training to five Pakistani graduate students who successfully completed their MS theses on low-cost networking solutions between December 2009 and January 2011
- Facilitated creation of new course offered at LUMS entitled Computing for the Developing World
Although not originally planned, the technical highlight of this project has been the development of a low-cost GSM base station, which is operating in development mode in Pakistan and as a pilot service (with FCC license) in Berkeley. The low-cost base station combines several technologies to reduce the overall cost by at least 10 times. The prototype requires only 40 watts of power, which means it is possible to use solar or wind power rather than a very expensive diesel generator. This saves not only the cost of the generator, but also the ongoing costs of fuel and refueling trips. The system is also light in weight, so the base station can easily be placed on a hillside, which greatly improves coverage and eliminates the need for a large transmitting tower (typically costing $5,000 or more). As part of the project, the Pakistani side received GSM equipment from Berkeley, which is being tested in their lab in Lahore. A key goal for their team is to get GPRS working on the OpenBTS base station. The Berkeley team has been operating the base station for several months, and at the time of the final report (December 2011) was on their second experimental FCC license (each one lasts six months). The Pakistan network uses the same band, although deployment there will require a more complex spectrum license, which they hope to get from Zong Telecom. Dr. Brewer and Dr. Saif report that this project is continuing despite the end of this grant, due to its great potential and the mutual excitement of both sides about the possible impact. They remain in regular contact as they work on joint development of the GSM base station with U.S. and Pakistani students, and they are actively seeking new funding from USAID, NSF, and other sources to enable a large-scale trial.
Progress Report Summaries
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2011 Download final report
2010 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
During the summer of 2010, the Pakistani partners on this project organized two one-day workshops on the use of TIER Wild Links to train NGOs in Pakistan for setting up mobile health centers during the severe floods. Following that, the TIER Wi-Fi links developed by Berkeley were deployed in Pakistan in the suburbs of the district of Muzaffargarh to connect two mobile healthcare facilities with doctors in a Basic Health Unit (BHU) some 10 km way. Using these links, the patients in a flood-affected area could video conference live with a remote doctor for a preliminary diagnosis and screening. Point-to-point links were established between remote facilities staffed by volunteer students and physicians based in the BHU in Muzaffargarh. The student volunteers checked the basal temperatures of incoming patients, took blood-pressure readings, and asked a few basic questions. Patients found to have fever or abnormal blood pressure were connected with a doctor at the BHU, who interacted with them live via video conferencing. For minor diseases such as influenza, the student volunteers were instructed by the doctor to dispense flu medication. However, patients were found to have contracted water-borne diseases such as cholera were transported to the nearest hospital (40 km away) by the only SUV available in the area. During the 3-week deployment in September 2010, the mobile health clinics helped treat more than 300 patients. Further details on recent work under this project may be found in their 2010 progress report linked above.
2009 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
By April 2009, Dr. Brewer and his graduate student had developed long-distance Wi-Fi-based technology, which was shipped to Pakistan for testing and training, both of which took place during the summer of 2009. Although security problems prevented several planned visits by Dr. Brewer or his colleagues to Pakistan, Dr. Saif was able to visit Berkeley in 2009, and a research associate from LUMS, Ms. Habiya Beg, visited Dr. Brewer’s group at Berkeley for one month beginning in November 2010. Habiya worked with the Berkeley group on open-source rural-scale telephony systems as detailed below, and this system is being deployed in Pakistan now that she has returned home.
2008 Show summary || Hide summary || Download full report
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