Someone using the software would e-mail a query to a central server in Boston. The program would search the net, choose the most suitable webpages, compress them and e-mail the results a day later.
"More and more we are creating an information divide in the world and this can help narrow that divide and have a huge benefit in that sense, " said Professor Saman Amarasinghe of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science in Boston.
The thinking behind the TEK search engine is that people in poor countries are short of money but have time on their hands, whereas people in the West are cash-rich but time-poor.
"The idea is that developing countries are willing to pay in time for knowledge," explained Prof Amarasinghe.
"In the West when we surf we want the information in the next two seconds. We are not willing to wait."
The researchers say current web technology such as search engines is focused on the needs of the West.
When the students arrive, they can browse through those pages the way they would if they had full internet connectivity
Prof Saman Amarasinghe, MIT
By contrast, people in poor countries face problems such as the speed and cost of an internet connection, let alone the huge amount of webpages thrown up by search engines.
"Let us assume you are in Malawi," explained Prof Amarasinghe, "and the computer lab does not have access to the telephone line all the time."
"If you want to find some new information about malaria, you are prompted with a message that says 'we are going to send a query through e-mail, it is OK?'.
"At night, when the phone line is available, the teacher can dial out and send the queries."
The request is sent to computers at MIT in Boston, which then search the internet and gather webpages.
To avoid a glut of information, the... [continues]
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