Here’s something I missed…

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

I recently discussed the currently limited prospects of overcoming internet censorship of ‘kill switch’ proportions and about clandestine outfits as the only viable solution to making a high speed internet network in the face of this type of censorship…and then I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times about the US governments attempt to support these clandestine operations by packing wireless networking components into a suitcase to smuggle across borders to rebels ready to set up ‘shadow’ networks. The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative (OTI), with the support of funding by the US State Department, has created the very tidy ‘Internet in a Suitcase’. Whilst there is scepticism about the US government’s actual intentions, whether they are acting as genuine philanthropist or simply intelligence gathering, it is still a very exciting prospect.

The suitcase contains:

  • USB Memory Stick, which holds the networks software
  • A repeater, which bridges GSM phones and WIFI mesh networks
  • A mobile phone, which also holds the networks software and can be transferred anonymously between phones using bluetooth
  • A variety of high power antennas and receivers
  • Disks of software
  • An easy to use manual

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The idea is that the suitcase will be discreetly passed across borders into the hands of dissidents where they will begin to construct a network of people, through which to disseminate the software ultimately creating an ad hoc WIFI network which sits outside the national internet infrastructure. The hardware constituents play much less of a role than the software, which is also available as a simple download. Unfortunately, the overview of the project and software information is currently unavailable in Arabic, when it does become available I will post the link in the bypassing section of this site. What’s nice is that, whilst the OTI remain elusive about how they intend to deploy the suitcases, the software can be used right now on and between normal GSM phones making it extremely relevant for countries like Libya where traditional internet use is a fringe, or rather elite, activity, but where nearly everyone has a mobile phone.

The challenges the OTI could face would be: 1/ overcoming scepticism about the US government’s political intentions; 2/ finding a viable way to deploy the suitcases; and 3/ avoiding being caught out.

For further information visit the Open Technology Initiative website.

The OTI are currently looking for Arabic speakers  for translation work.  People are asked to join one of their mailing lists to find out how they can help:

Developers List

General Discussion List

Announcement Only List

Communicate via IRC in #oswc on (or for a web client).


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