RuralCafe: Web Search in the Rural Developing World

Presented at: 18th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2009)

by Jay Chen, Lakshminarayanan Subramanian, Jinyang Li


The majority of people in rural developing regions do not have access to the World Wide Web. Traditional network connectivity technologies have proven to be prohibitively expensive in these areas. The emergence of new long-range wireless technologies provide hope for connecting these rural regions to the Internet. However, the network connectivity provided by these new solutions are by nature intermittent due to high network usage rates, frequent power-cuts and the use of delay tolerant links. Typical applications, especially interactive applications like web search, do not tolerate intermittent connectivity. In this paper, we present the design and implementation of RuralCafe, a system intended to support efficient web search over intermittent networks. RuralCafe enables users to perform web search asynchronously and find what they are looking for in one round of intermittency as opposed to multiple rounds of search/downloads. RuralCafe does this by providing an expanded search query interface which allows a user to specify additional query terms to maximize the utility of the results returned by a search query. Given knowledge of the limited available network resources, RuralCafe performs optimizations to prefetch pages to best satisfy a search query based on a user's search preferences. In addition, RuralCafe does not require modifications to the web browser, and can provide single round search results tailored to various types of networks and economic constraints. We have implemented and evaluated the effectiveness of RuralCafe using queries from logs made to a large search engine, queries made by users in an intermittent setting, and live queries from a small testbed deployment. We have also deployed a prototype of RuralCafe in Kerala, India.

Keywords: Search

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