I’ve long since believed that global availability of low-cost broadband is the Holy Grail of technology. A few years back, my wife and I were blessed to visit Cape Town, South Africa. As Managing Editor of Engadget, I was tasked with reporting on an incredible trial being conducted by Google. In essence, Google was tapping into unused TV frequencies to broadcast Internet to previously unserved or underserved areas. The result? Schools in some of Cape Town’s poorest regions were able to connect their classrooms, and indeed, their pupils to the magic of endless information.
We visited a number of these institutions, interviewing both instructors and awestruck students. Watching someone experience the internet for the first time is transformative. Whereas many American students count down the moments till class is dismissed, these children were captivated by a newfangled pipeline of answers to any topic offered in their curriculum. Witnessing the impact of technology on a culture so very different than mine has forever changed me.
Before starting the long journey home, we caught a boat that took us out to Seal Island in the raucous waters of False Bay. There, we entered the same seas as great white sharks, with one in particular thrashing our cage and permanently altering the pitter-patter of our hearts. It’s easy to take a working WiFi signal for granted, but whenever I encounter a finicky connection, I think back to my time in South Africa. There, the hearts of the people are as beautiful as the coastline, and the growing reach of the Internet is creating a new level of empowerment.