Mobile technology is already playing an important role in the economic and social empowerment of rural communities in developing regions. However, rural areas often suffer from slow and unreliable network infrastructures. This limits access to content and services that may promote economic development. Focusing on under-served areas in rural developing regions, we aim to explore how ICT systems for collective intelligence can be used to foster economic and social empowerment of rural communities. In our model, microentrepreneurs equipped with low-complexity cinema-in-a-backpack systems can deliver educational and entertainment content in remote villages. The content is distributed to micro entrepreneurs by means of opportunistic (delay-tolerant) networks. In such networks, mobile infostations mounted on public transportation vehicles deliver content without the support of telecom operators or any other dedicated network infrastructure. The delay tolerance of opportunistic networks makes them ideally suited to environments with under-developed ICT infrastructures. We discuss the technical challenges behind distributing digital content with a low-cost delivery mechanism and opportunistic networks. We also establish the case for DTN as a socially-grounded approach to mobile empowerment in the context of rural development. Toward this end, we present our work in an ongoing project that provides communities in rural South Africa with cinema experience by training microentrepreneurs in the operation of a DTN-enabled micro franchise.
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