The Last Thousand Miles

It transpires that the government of Nunavut, a remote territory of Canada between Hudson bay and Baffin bay, recently acquired some new digital cameras for the purpose of creating driver’s licenses. The files created by the cameras, presumably a handful of megabytes unless they’re using Hasselblads, were too big to be effectively emailed for processing due to the extreme limitations of internet connections in the area. Instead, they were loaded onto flash drives and flown hundreds of miles to Iqaluit, where they were processed and returned.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is jokes: haven’t they heard of “save for web”? Did they try the wi-fi at the coffee shop? And in the frozen tundra, shouldn’t they be issuing sledging licenses? But the truth is that this rather absurd little situation is just one of thousands in which huge swaths of the world are being left behind in our rush toward connectivity. While the haves are complaining about losing 4G service when they’re in their apartment, the have-nots are paying hundreds of dollars for speeds we would have laughed at ten years ago. Is it possible to bridge the gap, or are the Nunavuts of the world simply out of luck?