Project Loon Brings Connectivity to Developing Countries

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SEATTLE — One reason why it’s incredibly difficult to address the needs of developing countries is the fact that the media only portrays the views of a few representatives of a community. In an infomercial for Google’s Project Loon, it is stated that, “for every one person who can get access to the Internet, there are two that can’t.”

Being connected by this vast network in modern society enables people to dictate their views, wants and needs, quickly and efficiently. It also helps people to stay informed of what is going on in other parts of the world; yet, there are still so many misconceptions.

“Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”

The idea of accessing Internet by balloon came to fruition in 2013 via a pilot test from New Zealand. After it was launched, it flew approximately 9,000 kilometers to Chile across the Pacific Ocean. After this, the members of Project Loon issued a command for the balloon to change altitude, cutting its 80 KPH speed by 25 percent. The idea was not to keep one balloon stationary, but rather to direct a fleet of balloons to work with the wind currents so that when one balloon needs to move, another is kept in its place. After successfully completing a connectivity test, the balloon was sent to Australia, about 10,000 kilometers further. All in all, the balloon provided a total of two hours of Internet connection where there previously was none.

According to Ars Technica’s John Brodkin, “Google is aiming to get more people in developing countries on the Internet.” In countries of possible future consumers, this works in Google’s favor. “A single balloon can cover an 80 km [49.7 miles] diameter. Rhode Island is 77 km [47.8 miles] north to south and 59.5 km [37 miles] east to west,” and a partnership with the company Telcos could allow Google to cover an even broader range with the balloons for an even greater amount of time.

For countries that only receive a connection for at most an hour or two a day, this is big news. Improvements on this technology will allow more communities to connect with one another and express their needs in order to better help other countries understand them to a greater extent and to help them help themselves.

Anna Brailow

Sources: Engadget, Project Loon, Ars Technica,
Photo: Slice of MIT

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