A good friend of mine runs an orphanage in the Philippines. They live far, far from Manila on an outlying island, so their Internet access is a flaky 14.4kbps dialup line. Mike's an American citizen and most of his family lives here, so when he wants to share pictures or movies of his kids with their grandparents or aunts and uncles and cousins, he's stuck:
- Email (relatively) huge attachments to multiple family members
- Upload to a shared hosting space
- Upload to a social network
- Email attachments to a single family member who will redistribute them to others
Mike's situation is reasonably common among humanitarians outside of the digital world. The large documents they transfer might not only be photos of family; they might be agricultural manuals or recordings of native music or languages. In all cases, the distribution mechanism is a broadcast mechanism, from one source to multiple recipients.
Mike asked me the other day about using BitTorrent—where he could upload files to something which generates a private tracker which notifies his desired recipient list. From there, they use their own bandwidth to distribute the files. He has to upload them once over his slow connection (though the BitTorrent protocol could easily handle partial and resumed transfers).
All of the pieces of this system are available. Has anyone put them together? Sometimes it's important to build tools to help the world outside of the coastal urban clusters communicate effectively.
(Obligatory Perl: this is one reason I distribute the electronic versions of Modern Perl for free: $30 may be small barrier to a programmer in North America or Western Europe, but even $2 might be a large barrier to a programmer in a less developed country. They deserve great tutorials and references as well.)