Google, Sri Lanka and a Bridge to the Future

sri lanka

Taking a cue from its divine namesake, Hindu deity Rama—who built a bridge from the Indian subcontinent to Sri Lanka using floating stones in the ancient epic Ramayana—a modern-day Rama is hoping to connect the island nation to the rest of the world using the power of floating balloons.

Bloomberg News recently reported that Sri Lanka is working with Google through the government-backed company Rama to test Google X laboratory’s Project Loon.

The project is literally a trial balloon seeking to provide nationwide Wi-Fi to Sri Lanka using about a dozen weather-protected balloons floating over the country, which is located off the southern coast of India and bordered by the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Mannar of the Laccadive Sea and the Palk Strait. The goal of the project is nationwide—perhaps someday global—Internet connectivity.

If the goal seems incredible, its potential value certainly isn’t.  Sri Lanka, in comments submitted in advance of the United Nations’ December 2015 meeting on Internet governance and sustainable development, showed how increased connectivity has helped rapidly link some of its over 20 million citizens to schools, hospitals and government.

For Google, the project is a test run to see if providing nationwide Wi-Fi is technologically feasible—and if money can be made doing it. For developing nations, the stakes are even higher.

Building undersea cables to connect island nations can be cost-prohibitive, and landlocked nations must negotiate with their coastal neighbors for access to the cables. Floating connectivity may seem like something out of mythology, but Sri Lanka and Google are hoping for an epic success.