I’ve been invited to join a bunch of interesting folk blogging at the Media Center Conversation, “a global, cross-sector exploration of issues, trends, ideas and actions to build a better-informed society. It’s a collaborative project that rips, mixes and mashes people from radically different spheres of activity and thought to share and learn from each other.” The idea is to “explore how society informs itself, tells its story and creates the narrative from which we extract context and meaning about our world, our neighbors and ourselves. From this exploration we seek to connect people and opportunities, to incubate ideas – and to stimulate projects and action.”
Here’s an excerpt form my first contribution: Where You Sit:
Where you are influences what you write.
I write a technology column for the online and Asian editions of The Wall Street Journal, based in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Even my boss sometimes asks me why I don’t move to some geeky centre like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul or Taipei.
Last time he was in town I was trying to explain to him — the diversity, the perspective it lends to geeky gadgetry fiddling with my Treo as a prematurely old woman drags a truck-sized cart of grass past my taxi window, the wow! factor when technology really does work in the real world — when a terrorist bomb went off outside an embassy less than a mile away. That stopped our conversation before I had really gotten into gear. Nothing like a bomb blast to break the mood.
Yes, I know it’s awful to quote oneself, but I just wanted to show you I’m staying busy. And actually there are some interesting folk posting to the blog, so you can ignore my stuff and read theirs if you prefer.
Taiwan is really going for it in the WLAN stakes: Taipei WLAN Wifly Takes off reports that: WiFly, a WLAN (wireless local area network) that will cover all of the main populated areas in Taipei City in its first phase, began operations on February 1. Qware Systems & Services is the builder and operator of the network under a BOT (build-operate-transfer) contract signed in September, 2004, with the Taipei city government.
The plan, the Digitimes says, involves setting up 10,000 access points around the city. The first phase covers about 20% of the population of the city, and the second phase, covering another 30%, will be done by June. By the end of the year, 90% will be covered. For now it’s free, and 10,000 people have already registered.
This figure, according to the Taipei Times, is not overly impressive: Taipei’s cyber city project is one of the largest in the world in terms of areas of coverage and the capital spent. Yet Wifly does not seem to have built a large customer base as statistics compiled by the city suggests since Wifly began its trial run in December, an average of 250 people use the service daily, and each user spends 48 minutes.
Still, the project, called the Mobile City Project, or M-City, is thinking big: The paper quotes Mayor Ma Ying-jeou as saying “Taipei will be the world’s first and largest mobile city, where users can access the Internet wherever they go”.
Taiwan has launched what it’s calling the “world’s first dual-network application service”, according to today’s Taipei Times (which charmingly, and perhaps accurately, calls it a Duel Network in its headline).
The network combines wireless local area networks (WLANs) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). In a demo set up in Taipei’s Nankang Science Park, workers have access to “various functions, including access to personal e-mails and instant messages or connection to any printer in the park through wireless transmission. Other services allow parents to view their children in the park’s daycare center through a surveillance system.” From what I can understand in the piece, the government plans to spend NT$7 billion to build the same thing across the whole country over seven years. Taiwan Cellular, the paper says, will roll out dual-network service packages after the Lunar New Year (early next month).
It’s not clear, and I’m not clear, about how exactly this works, and what it’s for. The point of dual-network devices makes sense — you can use them for VoIP on WLAN hotspots, and switch to cellular in cellular-only areas, but why have both technologies in the same place? I guess, as it implies above, the idea is to offer more options and services atop the existing structure. So you might prefer to have one data connection via GPRS, but print locally via Wi-Fi. Or is there more to it that I’m missing?