Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Building a BHL Africa: BHL in a box

Was going to post this as a comment on the BHL blog but they use Blogger's native comment system, which is horrible, and it refused to accept my comment (yes, yes, I'm sure it did that on grounds of taste). I read the recent post Building a BHL Africa and couldn't believe my eyes when I read the following:

the "BHL in a Box" concept was highly desired. This would entail creating interactive CDs of BHL content for distribution in areas where internet access is unreliable or unavailable.
CDs! Really? Surely this is crazy!?. You want to use an obsolete technology that require additional obsolete technology to ship BHL around Africa? Why not ship relevant parts of BHL on iPads? Lots more storage space than CDs, built-in interactivity (obviously need to write an app, but could use HTML + Javascript as a starting point), long battery life, portable, comes with 3G support if needed. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Africa is about zero, but given that mobile devices are common, mobile networks are fairly well developed, and tablets are making inroads (see iPad has become a big factor in African business) surely "BHL mobile" is the way to go to provide "BHL in a box", not CDs.

Why not develop an app that stores BHL content on a device like an iPad, then distribute those? Support updating the content over the network so the user isn't stuck with content they no longer need. In effect, something like Amazon's Kindle app or iBooks would do the trick. You'd need to compress BHL content to keep the size down (the images BHL currently displays on its web site could be made a lot smaller) but this is doable. Indeed, the BHL Africa could be an ideal motivation to move BHL to platforms such as phones and tablets, where at the moment users have to struggle with a website that makes no concessions to those devices.

Of course, it doesn't have to be the iPad as such. Imagine if BHL published books and articles on Amazon, then used Kindle to deliver content physically (i.e., ship Kindles), and anyone else could access it directly from Amazon using their Kindle (or Kindle app on iPad).