Dubbed Fab-Fi by it's creators at the MIT Media Lab, this rusty contraption is actually a handmade reflector for a wireless internet network in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. While traveling in the region, members of the Bits and Atoms Lab showed locals how to build the reflectors from scraps of metal, wires, and tin cans. Since then, members of the community have built enough reflectors and, in conjunction with wireless routers, have boosted the range of internet connection to many locals who would have no access otherwise with 25 simultaneous live nodes in Jalalabd.
When compared to a similar World Bank funded initiative to install internet infrastructure in the region - which took 7 years and millions of dollars worth of investment to achieve similar results - the idea that teaching concepts is sometimes the best solution. Imported infrastructure is often expensive and highly sophisticated, whereas a piece of technology developed from a concept that uses local materials and methods can evolve into an extremely potent solution. By using materials that already exist at hand, the users are most likely tapping into a material stream that is both local and readily available. As these materials are probably common to their makers, their use and manipulation is that much more of a familiar process. Furthermore, the possession of imported infrastructure is often kept to the supplying entity. With locally created technology, the process can become part of a user-generated economy - something that will do more good for a distressed region than any type of imported technology.
Seen on Gizmodo.