Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, Sarvodaya, Big Brother and Broadband

Posted on November 26, 2008  /  1 Comments

Big Brother might not have liked Dr. A.T Ariyaratne. When visited Google headquarters, Sri Lanka’s Savrodaya leader was shown a central system that tracked every Google search and displayed the aggregate outcome in a huge globe. Dr. Ariyaratne’s first reaction was shock. He thought about the immense possibilities the omnipotent technology offers to Big Brother. Isn’t somebody tracking all our information needs too scary? Will that be post-modern form of information slavery? He is still waiting for answers.

Yesterday’s workshop – ‘Know your Broadband’ – LIRNEasia jointly organized with Sarvodaya’s ICT for Development arm Fusion too promoted a monitoring system, but the similarities ended there. Instead of Big-Brotherly approach our AT-Tester (developed jointly with a team from IIT Madras) depends on Public Source Computing (an arm of Distributed Computing or Grid Comuting). There is no central control. Each volunteer does his/her monitoring and feed the individual data to a central web site – open to public.

What does that mean? Visualise the map of Sri Lanka. Pick a district of your choice. Click to see the broadband quality parameters of different packages at different times of the day. We are hardly there yet, but that is our aim. The outstation telecenter operators who participated yesterday’s workshop were only a tiny section of the growing regional broadband users. They will ensure the system up and data accurate.

More information to follow, but if you are curios here is the link: www.broadbandasia.info

1 Comment

  1. Here’s how John Battelle described it in his book, The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2005):

    “Link by link, click by click, search is building possibly the most lasting, ponderous and significant cultural artifact in the history of humankind: the Database of Intentions….the aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. It lives in many places, but three or four places in particular – AOL, Google, MSN, Yahoo – hold a massive amount of this data. Taken together, this information represents a real-time history of post-Web culture – a massive clickstream database of desires, needs, wants and preferences that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked and exploited for all sorts of ends.”

    Elsewhere in the book, Battelle quotes one Google official as saying: “We are one bad story away from being seen as Big Brother,”

    Reviewing this book in The Times Higher Education Supplement in Nov 2005, Sir Arthur C Clarke wrote: “While that’s a real public relations nightmare for any search company, there is one big difference here: every single individual who uses online searches does so voluntarily. It’s almost like Big Brother in reverse – but with potentially the same results.”

    Read the Clarke review in full here: