How Solar-Paneled "Plug-And-Play Donkeys" Bring The Internet To Turkish Sheepherders

Information wants to be flea-free?

The Turkish government has made recent attempts to censor the Internet, but meanwhile some citizens are developing highly innovative ways of getting online. Consider the sheep and goat herders who are so desperate to keep up with technology that they have even started installing solar panels on the donkeys that accompany them on their long, semi-nomadic journeys out into the wilderness.

The devices, marketed by the Turkish solar panel company Ser-Gün as a "plug-and-play donkey," produce between five and seven kilowatts of electricity, enough to charge many laptops. They also power lights that are particularly helpful during birthing, RFD-TV reported.

"The shepherds have a difficult time," explains alternative energy analyst Ozgur Gurbuz. "They live far away from the cities [and] towns and the only way [for them] to socialize is to watch TV or use [computers]. Solar power serves both purposes."

Each device costs 2,800 Turkish liras ($1,320), about half of which is covered by government development funds, according to reports in the Turkish press.

"We aim to better the daily comfort of the producer in the countryside, providing sustainability for sheepherding," Ser-Gün Chairman Tamer Uğurluel told the Turkish Cihan news agency.

Image via hurriyetdailynews.com

But experts say that such trends will also allow more information to penetrate deeper into countryside, an area where many people have little access to news except that produced and broadcast by pro-government media.

"My first reaction was that at least in some respects the ‘digital divide’ idea was collapsing," says Erkan Saka, an assistant professor of communications at Bilgi University in Istanbul. "At least in terms of connecting the web, all citizens in Turkey are finding ways to connect."

[Image: Flickr user Nicolas Vigier]

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