I was contacted after my recent post by Skyrove founder Henk Kleynhans. Skyrove is basically a DIY hotspot kit — you buy it, you install it, and suddenly you have a WiFi hotspot which neighbours, customers etc can utilise. This is an innovative South African solution that (if their Website is be believed) has global aspirations and potential.
He therefore corrected me on the practicality issue: in his view, Esther Dyson is spot on, and his company is willing to be the enabler.
Three cheers for him: this is a cool, innovative, compelling product offering. I can’t testify to quality of connectivity, nor do I have any idea how his company has rolled out WiFi connectivity. Many local WiFi efforts are pretty bad when it comes to bandwidth, hopefully his isn’t. Skyrove appears to include a billing model and bandwidth management tools, so no problems being a mini-ISP.
All this being said, to me this isn’t really the point. Even if the practicalities are surmountable (and I’m still not sure they are — why, for example, would I pay my neighbour for something I could just buy myself?), it doesn’t take away from the government’s responsibility to sort out the internet connectivity mess in South Africa. In the context of the Presidential Advisory Council, I still maintain that cheers for consumer activism are misplaced.
Esther Dyson has posted to her blog Release 0.9 her experiences and thoughts on her South African trip, and it’s well worth reading. The American entreprenuerial spirit fills one with enthusiasm, if not faith.