6 Minute English – The Outernet
The idea of delivering information via the internet to every person on the planet is has become a major priority for some of the biggest tech firms. One idea is the Outernet.
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6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.
Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil..
Catherine: ..and I’m Catherine. Hello.
Neil: Hello, Catherine! Now, how was your holiday?
Catherine: My holiday was lovely, Neil. I was staying on a beautiful island. It was very remote and there was actually no internet access. So, I did feel quite cut off actually.
Neil: And cut off means isolated. How did you survive, Catherine?
Catherine: Well, it wasn’t easy. But I had my e-reader double click: dictionary – that’s an electronic device which lets you store and read lots of books from the internet. And I read a lot of Harry Potter..
Neil: Harry Potter? I know you like wizards, Catherine, but shouldn’t you have downloaded some classic literature? How about Shakespeare’s The Tempest? That’s got a wizard in it too.
Catherine: Well, yes indeed. But Shakespeare on the beach isn’t quite right for me, Neil.
Neil: Right. Well, today we’re talking about how the poorer and more remote double click: dictionary – or distant – parts of the world can get access to learning.
Catherine: That’s right. But before we start, Neil, I believe you have a quiz question for us.
Neil: Yes, I do. I would like to know what the proportion of the world’s population that still has no internet access is. Is it.. a) a quarter? b) half? or c) two thirds?
Catherine: I’m going to go for c) two thirds.
Neil: Well, we’ll find out if you’re right or wrong later on in the programme. So Catherine, how can these people get connected to the internet and start surfing?
Catherine: By using the Outernet.
Neil: The Outer what?
Catherine: The Outernet. That’s the idea of entrepreneur double click: dictionary Syed Karim and its goal is to give people in unconnected communities access to information without having to use expensive mobile phones or two-way satellite networks.
Neil: I see. And an entrepreneur, by the way, is a person who makes money by starting their own business that typically involves some financial risk.
Catherine: Yes, I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of an entrepreneur.
Neil: Well, you’ll need money and ideas, Catherine. Have you got either of those?
Catherine: I’ve got ideas.
Neil: Right. OK. I get it.
Catherine: So, can you tell us how the Outernet works, Neil?
Neil: Yes, I can. The Outernet uses existing communications satellites to store and broadcast double click: dictionary data – broadcast means to send out signals or programmes. Special equipment on the ground picks up double click: dictionary – or receives – the data, and this can be copied to phones and computers.
Catherine: But the Outernet broadcasts data offline – which means it’s not connected to the Internet. There’s no communication with the internet for user – so, no emails, no chat forums. And that can be a big drawback double click: dictionary – or disadvantage.
Neil: Yes. The Outernet doesn’t provide two-way communication. But let’s hear Syed Karim discussing why one-way access has some advantages. And see if you can spot another word meaning ‘two-way’.
Syed Karim, business entrepreneur:
Anything that is related to bi-directional communications, the internet, to be able to provide that to the entire world, those are billion dollar projects, multi-billion dollar projects with huge time horizons and enormous complexity. And, you know, our solution that we are offering is instantaneous, I mean, it exists right now.
Neil: Did you get it? Another way of saying two-way is bi-directional double click: dictionary . So what are the advantages of one-way double click: dictionary communication, Catherine?
Catherine: It’s significantly cheaper. Bi-directional communications are multi-billion dollar projects. But the Outernet allows poorer communities to benefit from access to information.
Neil: Yes, it does. And the other big problem is the time it would take to establish two-way access. Syed says these projects have huge time horizons double click: dictionary – and this means the length of time it takes to complete a project – they’re huge, so very big.
Catherine: But the Outernet is already providing access to some of the world’s most valuable knowledge.
Neil: That’s right. The project aims to create a library of information taken from websites including Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg, which is a collection of copyright-free double click: dictionary e-books. Copyright-free means the right to use material without paying any fees.
Catherine: That sounds good. But ow let’s go back to the internet and hear from a BBC reporter talking about another project which aims to get people connected.
Google for example is working on Project Loon, a network of high-altitude helium balloons, which will boost Internet connections across much wider areas beyond coverage from conventional masts.
Neil: It’s called Project Loon – meaning crazy – because Google thought it was such a crazy idea, and loon sounds like balloon!
Catherine: Yeah. The idea is that users will connect to the balloon network double click: dictionary – or group of interconnected balloons – using an antenna attached to their building.
Catherine: The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, and then to a station on the ground that’s connected to the Internet.
Neil: The balloons will boost double click: dictionary – or increase – the number of people who will be able to access the Internet.
Catherine: Yes, it will. And that’s because there will be lots of them – compared to the number of masts double click: dictionary – or tall metal towers that send and receive signals – that are currently used.
Neil: OK, let’s have the answer to the quiz question I asked: What proportion of the world’s population still has no internet access? Is it .. a) a quarter? b) half? or c) two thirds?
Catherine: And I said c) two thirds.
Neil: And you were right! The answer is two thirds. Well done, Catherine.
Catherine: Thank you.
Neil: Now just time to listen to today’s words once again. Catherine.
Catherine: OK. We heard:
e-reader – an electronic device which you can store and read books from the internet
remote – a long way from towns and cities
entrepreneur – a person who makes money by starting their own business that typically involves some financial risk
broadcast – send out electronic signals or programmes
picks up – recieves
drawback – disadvantage
bi-directional – two-way / going in both directions
one-way – going in one direction
time horizons – the length of time it takes to complete something
copyright-free – the right to use other people’s material or work without paying any fees
balloon network – group of interconnected balloons
boost – increase
masts – tall metal towers that send and receive signals
Neil: Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. I hope you enjoyed connecting with us today! Please join us again soon.
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