Internet for the World

George Gotfredson knows how the free flow of information can impact lives. He shared insight into his research on global Internet.

Your original thoughts for your ARP focused on the high cost of college. You decided against that in favor of a focus on the impact of wireless internet on developing countries.
Yeah, the first idea involved a lot of spreadsheets. So, I switched gears. Internet is integral to our lives, and I wanted to study how giving access to those around the world will impact their education, their health, their agriculture, their everyday lives.

I focused on viable solutions to providing Internet access, and analyzed four solutions. The first is Google’s Project Loon, which involves hot air balloons with mini cell towns that beam internet down. There are a lot of challenges with scale, and little way to monetize. The second is building infrastructure, which is difficult in unstable governments where land ownership isn’t as clear cut as it is here. Also, it’s not as appropriate for rural areas. A third is Aquila and its software arm, Internet.org. Aquila is a solar-powered, lightweight aircraft that flies for 90 days and brings Internet to the areas below. Internet.org is code that people can download onto their phones and offers a basic version of the Internet, with no videos or images. Both are by Facebook. The final solution is probably the best one right now. It’s called OneWeb, and it’s a mass-produced satellite that could be launched and provide signals to user terminals. It’s being tested right now.

Wow. That’s comprehensive. How did you choose to go the tech route?
I’ve always been interested in technology and the tech that goes into these projects is important. It was great to compare the specifics of the technology, and the feasibility—who has the best solution? Will it be the most effective?

Here’s the question you are being asked a lot right now: next year?
I’m going to the University of Richmond in Virginia to study piano performance and business, and I might minor in organ performance. My life goal is to never have a boss, because I want to be the boss. I want to be an entrepreneur.

How has your experience at Liggett prepared you for your future success?
Liggett has a curriculum that can be morphed around students’ interests, especially with project-based study. Teachers give you the framework, and encourage you to dive into what you are interested in, and your learning builds on itself. In middle school, we learned the basics of how to do research, and rounded that up in eighth grade science. As freshmen, we learned about reliable sources and how to cite them. And there’s a real connection between the students and teachers; it sounds cliché, but it’s really unique. Plenty of teachers help students with their ARP, even if they aren’t the student’s teacher. Whether it’s math or engineering, they always help, and are interested and willing.

Any lifelong memories to share?
One thing I will remember is the Pleasant Lake outdoor education experience in sixth grade. As a junior you can apply to be a counselor, and you can go back as a senior. That experience is by far the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s a blast. You build relationships with counselors, and then it’s more fun going back as a counselor. It’s really, really cool.