Outernet founder Syed Karim, 45, is the new tech whizkid: his start-up delivers data free of cost via radio waves to areas without internet. Son of Bangladeshi parents who spent some time in India before moving to the US, Karim can read and write Bengali “at about Grade III level”. Siddhartha Mishra interviewed Karim. Excerpts:
What’s big idea driving Outernet?
I used to work at an investment fund focusing on media companies in emerging markets. Before that, I worked at a radio station in Chicago, which is where I first experimented with broadcasting data. Those experiences, time spent in productivity development and at a school library all influenced my decision to start Outernet. Stories of my parents’ childhood—reading a dictionary by light from a hurricane lamp, building a shortwave radio to get news—motivated me.
Who is Outernet meant for?
Right now, access to certain types of information is difficult for maybe half of the world....