March 1, 2005
Broadband in Addis
I have not missed broadband in Addis Ababa up to now.
Most of my news and online reading comes through Bloglines – an RSS aggregator that strips out all that cumbersome page design from sites like ft.com, leaving just the lean content behind. Other news updates arrive in the body of email messages. When text is the only thing that matters, a 52kbps dial-up connection from Ethiopian Telecommunications is plenty.
It has made me realise just how much of the broadband-powered stuff I did in the UK was unnecessary. Did I really need to watch a CNET news report or interview via a video feed? How often have I actually listened to those poorly-recorded Stone Roses bootlegs that I downloaded through BitTorrent? Did I really need to tune into obscure radio stations online when I had more than enough free audio blaring out of our real-life digital radio set in the kitchen? It was all great fun – but almost all of my high bandwidth surfing amounted to procrastination and time-wasting.
I have occasional mild hankerings for something faster here in Ethiopia. My wife Amber is a radio journalist and it takes ages to send her MP3 audio reports back to Blighty via email or FTP. It would be nice to download a few of the latest music releases via iTunes. But, up to now, that has been about it in terms of missing our expensive, high-speed service.
This morning, however, I found another more substantial reason to regret the slowness of our connection here. It was the news of the upcoming release of Odeo, a service that aims to simplify the process of "podcasting" - which according to Wikipedia is "making audio files (most commonly in mp3 format) online in a way that allows software to automatically download the files for listening at the user's convenience". People download radio and other audio on to devices like Apple's iPod and listen to it at their leisure, in the same way that people record and watch TV shows through TiVo.
It reminded me of the one piece of high bandwidth content that I would love to get hold of over here and download on to an iPod or any gadget that can take it. It is something that I will never be able to get to via my weedy dial-up line or listen to through our crackly shortwave radio set.
It is, of course, Car Talk, probably the best radio show in the world and available only to listeners of the USA's NPR radio network or owners of broadband internet links.
The show is basically two Boston men giving car advice to callers from across the US. Just like UK blogger Stuart Hughes, who loves it as well, I have no interest in cars. But it is still amazing - "a hugely entertaining hour of radio" in Mr Hughes' words.
For me it is nothing less that a one-programme justification for the broadband revolution.
Posted by aheavens at March 1, 2005 8:53 AM