Just the other day, I heard a truly inspiring story on NPR (you don't know how often I preface my conversations with that phrase!) about Estonia (affectionately referred to in EU circles as E-stonia) and its massive network of wireless internet router/repeater/whatever-those-things-are-that-make-it-work-ers.
To be more specific, Estonia, a country of some 1.3 million folks, is among the most technology savvy places on Earth. Hotmail, Kazaa, and Skype were all developed by groups of Estonian techno-junkies. The next great thing to come from the creators of Kazaa and Skype will be Joost, an internet TV application where users can customize channels and interface (still in testing mode).
Now these are all fairly high-level ideas and developments, but let's consider the latest newsbreak from E-stonia: one can now ride on a public bus across certain stretches of the country (as I recall the 300km stretch from Tallinn to Riga) and maintain wireless connectivity to the Internet through a receiver/repeater on the bus. And the ticket is only a nominal fee greater than the regular price.
By the way, if anyone can find this article, please comment with the link for our bloggers; I've looked all over and can't find it.
E-stonia is no stranger to making technology headlines across the world. For example, the government cabinet operates in a paperless environment (since 2000), and the citizens of E-stonia may now securely cast votes online in elections (since 2005). Here's something citizens of the U.S. might hope for in the future: "in February 2000, the Estonian Parliament approved a proposal to guarantee Internet access to each of its citizens, just like any other constitutional right." And this one really touched me: proposed legislation is published by the government online, where citizens may post suggestions. The country states that some 5% of these suggestions have made it into law. Talk about democracy at work!
Must be nice. Check out the many E-stonia initiatives here.
This brings me to Longmont, Colorado. To be sure, Longmont is no E-stonia (last I checked, Longmont isn't really a country). Longmont has its fair share of tech-junkies that work in Boulder county and beyond. I generally like people and avoid confrontation, so I don't want to ruffle any Longmonter (is this the proper moniker?) feathers.
But here's where Longmont totally rocks: beginning Spring 2007, Longmont will provide wireless internet access to the entire city. For more info, visit the city's site.
Seems like someone over there believes in E-stonia's talk of basic constitutional right to internet access. I was pleased to learn that I wouldn't have to move to E-stonia any time soon; although it looks pretty sweet.
Let's talk seriously about opening the walls of our classrooms - heck, not just our classrooms, but our community - to the world.
Who's with me?