Afghanistan has had a few infrastructure problems since being blown off the map in 2002. Education, access to fresh water ... these are the sorts of things that worried the average Afghan. The main worry for any Westerner out there was a bit more off the beaten path, namely: How fast is the Internet?
A decent Internet connection was one of the many plans for rebuilding Afghanistan. However, it definitely wasn't #1 on the list (remember that whole fresh water thing?) After a World Bank-funded project to bring Wi-Fi to the country took millions of dollars and many, many years to set up just one link, student volunteers from MIT said, "F#@k that noise," and began building a fully functional country-wide wireless network out of garbage.
The hub of cutting edge technology.
FabFi is built out of bits of plastic, wood and even cans. More than 25 live nodes are currently working in Jalalabad with more being built around the country.
Of course, where there is Internet there will be crackdowns. Thanks to the Afghan government, that lightning-fast, garbage-based Wi-Fi won't be able to stream any sites that have to do with gambling, alcohol or porn. Still, that leaves them like a quarter of the Internet to work with.
A windmill? We're seriously going to follow up drinking a house and a steerable island with a windmill? You wouldn't be asking such hypothetical questions if you'd met William Kamkwamba, who lives in the impoverished African nation of Malawi. In 2001, thousands of people in his country died due to drought and famine. Despite having virtually no schooling, the then 14-year-old Kamkwamba taught himself how to build a irrigation windmill out of whatever junk he found lying around in an effort to save his country.
This man is so much cooler than you.
When we say he taught himself, what we meant to say was that he went to the library and read a British book called Explaining Physics despite not really knowing how to read English. So step one of operation "Save my entire village" was combining your science and foreign language homework, except replace the part where you complain to your mom about making you do it, with voluntarily doing it in order to save your mom's life.
Feel awful yet? Great! On to step two! Next he went to the junkyard every day, picking up random stuff that sort of looked like the parts he saw in the diagram and began painstakingly assembling them into a giant windmill. Of course, painstaking has a different definition in Africa. He didn't have tools of any sort, not even a drill or a proper hammer. He had to bang the rusty nails he found with rocks until they got hot enough to burn holes into the pipes he was trying to drive them through. Like a cross between Captain Lou Albano and Don Quixote, Kamkwamba ran back and forth from his nail heating rocks to his pile of garbage that he claimed was going to be a windmill. While everyone in his village laughed at him, he managed to get enough nails hot enough to drive into enough garbage to build a windmill that saved all of their lives.
"Can you hear me saying, 'Told you so,' all the way down there? Because I could totally build a walkie talkie?"
Kamkwamba's windmill worked so well, even during droughts, that he was accused of witchcraft. It also provides enough energy to charge mobile phones, run radios and power the lights - no small feat in a country where only two percent of the population has electricity.
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For more people who lived in squalor but are still better than you, check out 5 Homeless Guys Who Accomplished Amazing Things. Or find out how you can craft your own booze, in Nectar of the Broke: The World's 5 Worst Ways To Get Drunk.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 05.19.10) to see the fort Jack O'Brien constructed out of his underwear.