Approximately 4.4 billion people in the world do not have access to Internet and most of them are young. Internet access allows children, especially students, to easily find information and contributes greatly to their education.

In order to help the many students without broad access to information, a company called Outernet is going to build virtual libraries through data that is beamed from satellites. Outernet created a device, the Lighthouse, that plugs into a satellite dish, which allows the user to download information that is available to the Internet for free.

Outernet started the project by launching a Crowdfunding campaign to raise $200,000. After five days, their campaign had raised $215,000.

The Lighthouse has solar panels to recharge the battery, which has a 12-hour life for receiving data and a 4-hour life when the Wi-Fi is activated. It is about the size of a flashlight, sturdy, lightweight and is able to access webpages, ebooks, music and videos.

All of the information is accessed through a mobile phone and the device costs $99. For those who want to save more money, Outernet sells the individual parts so that the consumer can make it themselves and the assemblage is simple.

“Imagine what our world and global economy can accomplish when education is truly universal,” said Outernet CEO Sayed Karim. “If we can provide a Library of Congress in every village in the world, why should we not?”

The World Bank has commissioned Outernet to install the Lighthouse hardware in South Sudan and will sponsor the content being delivered by Outernet. Their company has recently joined Facebook’s initiative, OneWeb, O3b and Project Loon from Google.

UNICEF is working with Outernet to have UNICEF’s Twitter feed available through their Lighthouse services.

One downside for the user of Outernet’s satellite service is that it works only one way. The user can download information, but they will not be able to upload any information or pictures. However, this allows Outernet to save money and makes it easier for the company to meet immediate needs in developing countries for more access to information.

In order to provide local information for citizens, Outernet will work with regional radio stations and newspapers to provide news and crop prices in different languages.

Until Internet access is expanded to rural villages and schools, Outernet provides a virtual library to expand the amount of information millions of people can access. It can provide the first look into what a true global network of information will look like and show the demand for Internet access in developing countries.

Donald Gering

Sources: Crowdfund Insider, Good News Network, Washington Post, Wired
Photo: Flickr