Cd3wd – an offline wiki for the 3rd world
The 3rd world faces many problems in trying to raise itself and the living standards of its populations. Many would say that while its rulers are massively corrupt and massively indifferent to the suffering of their peoples, then any and all efforts at self-betterment are wasted and futile.
The efforts over the last 50 years by bilateral and multilateral aid donors and by NGO’s have largely failed to have any real positive impact, and every year the development economists come up with a new magic bullet which will transform the economies of LDC’s – incidentally few or none of these magic bullets ever work, and none of the erring economists are ever fired.
One of the better recent magic bullets has been MicroFinance – giving loans and/or grants in small doses to individuals and groups. Often these loans are repaid, and when they are not, they become in effect a form of income support. Even income support is usually money better spent than most efforts of donors and NGO’s (so long as it is not spend on beer and women or toy-boys).
While the International Community is making up its mind as to whether it actually wants the 3rd world to develop, or whether it wants the 3rd world to stay as it is, it may be time for individuals and groups to stop relying on outside assistance and to do something for themselves. If they have free or very inexpensive access to technology and ideas, then either with or without external microfinance assistance there is a good chance that they can make something of themselves and of their situation. If this technology and ideas can be introduced even in primary and secondary schools, then so much the better.
Over the last 50 years, as well as running unsuccessful and successful projects, there has been a reasonable quantity of literature, books, pamphlets, and other kinds of advice generated in the sector of 3rd world development. Since about 1990, it has been possible to disseminate this information in electronic format very inexpensively using modern computer techniques. But little of that dissemination has been done. In fact, where it has been generated and funded, it has either been left gathering dust on shelves or it has been priced beyond the reach of its target audience.
Cd3wd is effectively a leverage project, which assembles largely existing information, unbundles it in (the many) cases where it is locked up in proprietry format(s), and makes it available both online and offline.
Cd3wd contains information on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food processing, soil and water, health, education, water and sanitation, appropriate technology, alternative energy, metalwork, woodwork, small industries etc etc etc..
The info is presented in largely in HTML format, with gif and jpg graphics files, and also there are some PDF files.
Cd3wd is available both online and as downloads to be browsed offline. Both versions are (in theory) identical, so in fact anyone who downloads cd3wd can also run it on their intranet or even host their own cd3wd on the internet. We acquired a vast amount of additional material September 2006, which we are starting to host and make available for download 2006/12. Because much of that additional material are large pdf files, we are breaking with our normal policy and some of the material will be available for download only, not for web browsing.
Cd3wd started about 2003 as an airmailed CD distribution, and was first web-hosted august 2004; downloads started at the same time. Since then we have in the region of 8000+ web page view per day (and rising) and average about 6 downloads per day (of about 700 megabytes each). Webpage hosting and downloads were originally on the same server, but this soon started to creak, so March 2006 we got downloads hosted on www.download.com and the existing server downloads we changed to a bittorrent distribution, which took a lot of load off the server. As of November 2006 we are now hosting on 2 webservers – www.sleekfreak.ath.cx and now also at www.cd3wd.com. We encourage others to also host webservers with cd3wd (volunteers welcome, and no permission is required from us to do so). By the way, being stuck here in the bandwidth backwater of Zimbabwe has greatly slowed down what it has been possible to achieve with cd3wd.
All the authoring and mastering is done by myself, alex weir (firstname.lastname@example.org) and due to the business of having to earn a living, then work on cd3wd is sporadic. We recently expanded the material to include OCW (open coursework) material from MIT, John Hopkins etc, and also electronic downloads from ITDG/Practical Action UK and Development Technology Unit (DTU), Warwick University UK.
The next main expansion will involve machine translation of the entire contents from English to Spanish, French and Portuguese; thereafter onwards to Arabic; thereafter possibly Russian and Chinese. I recently reworked the entire contents so that it is ready for this translation exercise.
An additional expansion area will be in education, especially primary and secondary education , but including college, university, MBA etc.. . The reason for this is that with the present trend towards the privatization of education globally, it is becoming expensive and the quality is lowering. It is possible to compensate for this by providing free but high-quality teaching materials for all subjects in computerized format, for use by individual students and for use by the teacher in a classroom and a non-classroom environment. These will be largely passive html and pdf material similar to existing cd3wd content, but will also include some active cbt (computer-based-training) stuff and also automated tests and exams. A major question in this context will be whether 3rd world schools should slavishly continue to copy the school curricula of the west, which themselves are so obviously unsuited even to the needs of western economies and workplaces…
The existing content is largely of a high standard, but not entirely. There are also some gaps in the content, which are highlighted at http://www.cd3wd.com/CD3WD/FUTURE.htm
The downloads of cd3wd so far have been primarily 2 markets – we guess about 80% of downloads are by people in the developed countries for their own use and interest, and about 20% are destined to be used in the 3rd world. Many 3rd world countries in their capital cities have cybercafes with sufficient bandwidth to download cd3wd (downloads are on average 400 megabytes, with some as large as 600 megabytes). Alternatively our recommended scenario is that cd3wd is downloaded in the north for cd’s or flash rams to be loaded and airmailed or hand-carried to the south. We would welcome magazine-front CD or DVD distribution by organizations such as DFID UK who do mass airmailing to 3rd world audiences.
The uptake by local, international and even big-name NGO’s has been disappointing, but we are working on that. The lack of recognition of cd3wd by content originators has also been disappointing. But these negatives are only typical of the aid and development business in general, and in fact vindicate the self-reliance philosophy.
There is a lot of good content out there which is not yet digitalized; the problem is partly funding and partly inertia (for whatever reason, commercial or otherwise).
Cd3wd is in need of content contributors and of funding; so far cd3wd has existed on a zero budget, and is funded by the man-hours put in free of charge by myself, by my spare money, and by the hosting contribution by Scott (email@example.com) at www.gnuveau.net. We are also tremendously grateful to the facilities at www.download.com, without which we would be incurring very high download hosting costs.
Mr Alex Weir
4 Brechin Drive
Tel +263 301 047 (fixed)
Tel +263 23 824 045 (mobile)
27 July 2006 (revised 16 December 2006)