Building "Sandbox" for IDRC at WSIS, Tunis 2005

The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place in Tunis the 16th-18th of November 2005. The World Summit, that gathered the main stakeholders and decision-makers from the private sector, media, government, civil society and the UN agencies consisted of two parts: the official Summit and several parallel events to be held from the 14th-19th of November 2005.

Building on the success of the ICT4D Platform in 2003, the ICT4all Exhibition in Tunis was the most important parallel event of the second phase of the WSIS. ICT4all was a showcase of innovative ideas and practical solutions from all sectors and countries present.

IT46 was demostrating a set of showcases that in a intuative way showed how ICTs can be used in developing regions. The showcases, "the Sandbox", was divided in 5 differenct groups, each of tem related to a different ICT area.

Together, the five showcases constituted a "Sandbox", which is displayed in the image below

During WSIS, 6 presentations a 45 minutes was carried out in the areas of

  • Introduction to Localization Technologies
  • VoIP: Potentials and Limitations
  • Emerging Wireless Technologies

COMPONENT 1: Content Management System (CMS-Blog)

Goal

The goal of this component was to support all the documentation of the demonstrations and to show that in human development, it is not only necessary to present the final solution to the problems but also the steps that have been necessary to follow. The main deliverable was the WSIS Blog (website) where the development of the demonstrations was documented. The aim was to submit approx. 25-35 postings describing the "internals" of the development of the demonstrations before WSIS.

Outcome

A) Pre-study CMS-Blog Solution A brief pre-study of existing CMS-Blogs solutions was carried out to identify a suitable solution that fitted the requirements for this component. As we aimed to focus on (1) multi-lingual content (including Right-to-Left writing systems) and (2) light design suitable for low connected regions, no existing suitable solution was found to match our very specific requirements. We decided to create a simple CMS from scratch with focus on our own needs.

B) CMS-Blog Development coding The CMS was designed to support a multilingual environment in low-connected regions. The following features have been implemented:

  1. Restricted administrative area that allows to post and edit entries
  2. Postings allow uploads of files and images
  3. Postings can be commented by any user
  4. Uploaded files are saved in the original size as well as in 3 different size resolutions. The resolution of the images (small, medium, large) can be changed by the user accordingly to the his/her bandwidth.
  5. A fully localisable interface including menus, buttons and admin interface
  6. Search engine that allows searches for keywords and single words in entries.
  7. RSS feeds for each demonstration of the sandbox
  8. CMS interface in English, French, Arabic and Spanish with support for RTL/LTR layout.
  9. Speakers' corner: enables WSIS participants to post their input about WSIS and IDRC's activities though an online form

C) CMS-Blog Server Release The CMS was released the 1st of September to support the documentation of the development phase. Approximately 40 postings were included before the start of WSIS the 15th of November. The CMS was (and still is) hosted at IT +46 (www.it46.se/wsis).

COMPONENT 2: Voice over IP (VoIP)

Goal

The goal of this component was to show multiple scenarios of how Voice over IP (SIP based) can be used in developing areas. The aim was to show how the Internet can be used as a common communication infrastructure for voice and data service. This component focused on the challenges of running VoIP over wireless infrastructure as IEEE 802.11.

Outcome

A) Pre-study VoIP solutions
After conducting a pre-study of VoIP solutions, we decided to build our own PBX based on Asterisk and VIA EPIA-M10000 board using a Digium TDM11B Card.

B) Asterisk Configuration
Configuration was completed and tested with Canada, and Egypt. Other tests were performed with high latency links in South Africa and Dialup connections in Spain

C) Internal Call: Wireless SIP phone to Wireless PC
The following softphones were evaluated and integrated in the testbed: Xlite (SIP), Minisip (SIP) and IaxComm (IAX). Softphones were evaluated in GNU/Linux and MS Windows Platforms.

D) Internal Call: Wireless Soft Phone to fix line
An IEEE 802.11 VoIP phone was added to the Asterisk sandbox. The Zyxel Prestige 2000W allowed users to make or receive phone calls as long as they are in the coverage of IEEE 802.11b or 11g wireless Access Points.

E) External Calls: Wireless SIP phone to International
A Dialplan was configured to enable the Wireless SIP phone to reach the fix line (PSTN) and two International PSTN Gateways Digisip (SE) and Vonage (CA).

F) External Calls: Fix Analog Phone to International
A Fix Analog Phone was added to the testbed using a Digium FXS Port. Several proof of concepts phone calls were established from the PBX to Canada. By connecting the PBX with Canada we could connect IDRC HQ to any place in the world via VoIP.

We also evaluated the possibility to "bridge" several PSTN gateways in our prototype including multi-party Conferencing features.

G) WiFi/Phone Showcases The following phones were integrated in the sandbox:

  • Analog phone
  • Wired IP phone (SwissVoice IP10S)
  • Wireless IP phone (Zyxel Prestige 2000W)
  • DECT phone (Philips xxx) using a Sipura SPA-3000

As part of the sandbox we successfully integrated four VoIP PSTN-gateways. In many cases this process required the "study" of their very specific registration mechanisms.

H) VoIP for Developing Countries Testbed
Finally, we designed a A1 Poster showing the whole testbed. The poster was also printed.

The VoIP demonstration showed clearly to the audience the benefits of VoIP and we showed a solution that worked out smoothly between Sweden, Canada and Egypt.

COMPONENT 3: Localization

Goal

The goal of this component was to show how the localization of content and software to local languages is a fundamental requirement for the transformation of global information into local knowledge.

During WSIS a client-server application was designed to collect information from the participants related to their "local languages" was presented.

The application was a part of the "Localization Resources Site", consisting of localization related information database. The database aimed to collect information about language specific information (where a language is spoken, scripts, encodings etc) linguistic resources, localization activities and more. This information would primely aim to act as a resource for ongoing localization efforts, groups that plan to start a project and decision makers. Also, an interactive "Questionnaire" consisting of approx. 20 questions targeting the topics mentioned above was developed for the event.

Outcome

A) Design of Questionnaire The Questionnaire consisted of the following questions:

  1. 6 questions regarding the localization status of the selected local language
  2. A list of 11 popular software where the respondent were asked to indicate which ones that were localized to their local language

The questionnaire was designed in a way that the respondent did not need any special skills in localization and could fill it in within a few minutes.

B) Design of Database
The design is based on the idea that localization information should be classification per Language and not per Country since a language is not bound to country borders. The database is designed to support multiple scripts, multiple countries and multiple encodings per language, in order to reflect the reality. All content in the database is encoded in UTF-8 encoding.

C) Submission Form
The submission form was designed to enable localization of the interface to any language included in Unicode. The localization was possible by integrating gettext PO files in our CMS.

D) Development (Presentation of Results)
Since the questionnaire was the main focus for WSIS (while the Localization Resources Site could be seen as a more long term project), we decided to focus on presenting the questionnaire results in a attractive way. In order to visualize the results, a new functionality for creating maps "on the fly" was created. This functionality allows users to query the database and get the result presented as a colored map.

E) Localization of submission form/questionnaire
The submission form was translated to Spanish, French, Arabic and English to facilitate data insertion for the respondents.

F) Collection of Data
In order to have some initial data to probe our design we decided to initially include some initial data in "Localisation Resources Site". The following data was collected:

  • Language codes and language status for 7175 languages.
  • Country codes and geographical area (continent) for 227 countries.
  • 107 different scripts (writing systems) not included in Unicode
  • 102 different scripts (writing systems) included in Unicode
  • Mappings between 167 languages and their scripts

COMPONENT 4: Wireless Development

Goals

The goal of this component was to show how "unlicensed" wireless Internet access (IEEE 802.11B/G and A) can be used to build an alternative communication infrastructure.

The wireless communication infrastructure would also serve to support the rest of demonstrations in the Sandbox and provide wireless connectivity to IDRC staff during the event.

Outcome

A) Pre-study Wireless solutions

The following technical implementations were part of the pre-study A PtP (Wireless Distribution System) based on OpenWRT and 2 Linksys 54GS. Implementation of a wireless access hotspot based on a dual band access point (IEEE 802.11 b/g/a) for IDRC booth and partners. Implementation of a wireless access based on a Linksys 54GS access point with an external antenna to provide wireless connectivity to the VoIP wireless phone and PDAs.

B) Wireless Testbed

A wireless testbed was set up accordingly to the pre-study described above and integrated in the sandbox.

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