Digital Culture a briefing on music
and international ecommerce
Today, it is possible to share many forms of art through the global Internet -- music, paintings and drawings, photographs, video, dance, poetry and books. Anyone with an inexpensive computer, microphone, scanner and camera can create beautiful, original products, put them on a website, and instantly offer them for sale to an audience of more than 150 million people worldwide.
Greenstar is working to take advantage of this capability in a radically new way: to help jumpstart business in small communities in the developing world. We're supplying the basic technology -- self-contained solar power, wireless communications and computers -- to "off-the-grid" villages. We then help the people to create and promote a website and configure it for ecommerce payments -- and seed a digital culture business.
These communities, which currently have no electricity or phone service, can now join the global economy by offering something truly unique and original of themselves. They can develop a relationship with people in the developed world with whom they would normally never be in touch -- or people right around the corner, whom they would not normally meet.
Greenstar's goal is to provide village people with an environmentally-sound way to achieve economic independence, to preserve and advance their traditional cultures, and to promote international peace and understanding. Through the Internet, we have the chance to express, for the first time, a truly global human purpose -- and to make this expression economically viable, with a built-in path to stability and growth.
In the village of Al-Kaabneh, an ancient Palestinian settlement on the West Bank, this Greenstar process is underway. Al-Kaabneh has electricity for the first time -- in the village school and community center, in the clinic, and in the mosque. They have a computer, for education and telemedicine, for the first time; and soon, they'll have a digital wireless connection to the Internet.
The next step was the creation of new works of digital culture. A skilled and renowned musician and songwriter from Los Angeles, Alan Roy Scott, travelled to Al-Kaabneh with simple, high-quality recording equipment.
Working with a local Palestinian musician, Alan and his associate, Rick Cowling, recorded the traditional music of the Bedouin villagers, who have moved across the vast, silent heat of the Dead Sea desert for millennia. In this sacred land, very close to the birthplace of Abraham in Hebron and about 75 miles southeast of Jerusalem, live musical traditions that lie at the very heart of Islamic, Christian and Jewish culture.
Alan helped to focus the music into simple performances, shaped it into a clean, professional format, and engineer Rick Cowling digitally recorded it live -- all powered by solar energy alone. This fresh new music, some of it thousands of years old and some of it created today, is available on the Internet where anyone in the world can hear it. Free tracks offered to everyone, and a commercial CD is available for purchase.
To hear some of this music right now, click here:
A continuing community relationship has been initiated between the people of Al-Kaabneh and the world, which will be nurtured both in powerful ways.
At the same time, Greenstar provided the people of Al-Kaabneh, especially the children, with art materials -- paper, paints, pens -- and with a digital camera. An expert in Palestinian and Bedouin culture is talking to children, adults and old people, and collecting stories which have a universal meaning -- about their past, their visions, and their daily lives -- and assembling them into a coherent collection. The resulting artwork, photographs and stories will also become new digital products, some available for free, for download over the Web.
To see samples of the artwork, click here:
Greenstar is evaluating other possible projects, in which the Solar Community and Ecommerce Center can be installed. Candidate countries include Jordan, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica...and also include First Nations peoples and inner city communities in America and Europe.
Greenstar is funded as a business, not a charity. We generate revenues for the villagers (who will also be Greenstar shareholders), and for the expansion of the Greenstar enterprise, in order to fuel a global expansion of digital culture to over 300 selected sites worldwide.
Greenstar delivers, installs and supports solar-powered village centers. Greenstar systems, both self-contained and free-standing in existing buildings, deliver electricity, communications, electronic commerce, pure water, education, telemedicine, entertainment as well as support for agriculture and micro-industry, to any community any place in the world. Economic support is provided through a link to the Web, bringing local products to world markets through the Internet.
Greenstar works closely with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab , the World Resources Institute and the United Nations Development Programme.
More details are available at http://www.greenstar.org
About the Al-Kaabneh Project
Al-Kaabneh is a small Palestinian settlement on the West Bank: 2000 people with no electricity, no telephones and no running water. It is located 10 miles southeast of Hebron, 15 miles from Masada, near the Dead Sea. The village was selected, in a 1998 study by Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Palestinian Hydrology Council, as one of dozens of communities which are "off the grid" -- no conventional electricity, and ideal for participation in renewable solar energy programs.
The people of Al-Kaabneh are Bedouin, with thousands of years of experience living in the desert. They are devout Muslims, understated and friendly, eager to share, aware of the larger world and fascinated by the potential of computers and the Internet, which they have read about but mostly never seen. They receive a full eight years of English education, and dream of working as teachers, lawyers, engineers, programmers...their potential is enormous.
In December 1998, eight large, sturdy 300-watt photovoltaic solar energy panels, funded by Greenstar and provided by ASE Americas, were hand-carried and mounted on the roof of the partly-finished school. They were wired together and connected to electrical gear that charges an array of batteries for up to four days of backup power. The stored charge is converted into usable AC power, both 110-volt and 220-volt. People in the village were active and knowledgeable about every part of the process; they built some of the panel mountings and installed all the interior wiring and sockets themselves. They have received training in operation and maintenance, and now manage their new solar power array independently.
Once electricity was flowing for the first time to the school, people were eager to make it work; the first item connected was a Pentium-class multimedia computer, with camera, microphone, color printer, speakers, touchscreen and a small library of educational and work software. The teachers immediately began typing up a lesson plan, and the students explored the sights, sounds and history of Palestine through an intrernational multimedia encyclopedia on CD-ROM. The touchscreen proved useful, for those people unfamiliar with moving a mouse pointer and clicking a button.
A solar-powered radio and vaccine cooler were added; electricity was also provided to the village mosque, so that the five-times-daily call to prayer, which echoes across the desolate hills, is now powered by the sun.
by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by mail: Greenstar Corporation
5042 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 575
Los Angeles, CA 90036 USA
by toll-free phone in the US and Canada: 877-282-9900
by international phone: 323-422-9602
Visit the Greenstar website at http://www.greenstar.org.
"For all the stunning capabilities of the Global Information Infrastructure, we must remember that at its heart it is a way to deepen and extend our oldest, and most cherished global values: rising standards of living and literacy, an ever-widening circle of democracy, freedom, and individual empowerment. As each breathtaking new development brings us closer together in communication, and in common cause -- building a true global electronic village -- we have a chance to spread a new prosperity...and even a new sense of community to the farthest regions of the world."
--Vice President Al Gore,
addressing the International Telecommunications Union