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Foreword

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Ruralroads.org is now sixteen years old. I had the idea of preparing a website in 1999 while in Vietnam. A book was what first came to mind. But why publish a book which will not reach those who could find it useful?  Books are rare and expensive in developing countries. Not long afterwards, in Uganda, I asked a local consultant to sketch out the basic site model. This was further refined in early 2000, more pages were added and it was eventually launched. Now it is in its final version.

More pages and accessories were added over the years as speed and size possibilities grew. Multimedia sidled hesitantly on to the scene, beginning with images (intended to render the long texts a bit more lighthearted)  followed by some rather primitive sound effects within the construction history section and recently, videos. Of course, it put on weight, from barely a meg or so to around seventy at last count. Given its original objective, to reach people in countries with limited web access, it still remains simple to view and will not overtax a slow connection. Nothing flashes or vibrates and pop-ups just don’t. Texts have been ruthlessly pruned but it is still very wordy which could put off many visitors. Nevertheless, words are necessary if it is to be useful and in fact any page could be easily expanded to a one-hour talk or a book chapter. The site has been quite popular, at least in countries using English. I hope to make it more accessible to French speakers.

The narrow focus on rural roads is an indicator of its age. This was normal then. Roads, being a Good Thing, were ends in themselves. This approach however led to lots of wasted resources and very little gain in rural mobility.  I widened this view over the years to stress that roads cannot be treated alone but must be viewed in terms of their role within a network,  which, together with the vehicles and people expected to use them, motorized or not, form  a transport system, intended to make people more mobile and thus improving accessibility of rural services.

The web environment has totally changed. Fifteen years ago there were only a handful of useful sites on the subject. Now there are many. Documents were available, if at all, only in hard copy, rarely free and and if they were, required enormous expense on photocopying and mailing. Now almost all you need can be downloaded for nothing. Links have therefore become very important. Much as I would like to provide lots of them, new ones spring up and others disappear daily so there can be no substitute for frequent key-word browsing. I can only point to a tiny fraction, to serve as base camps for wider searches.

The look (borrowed from the French: le look) has recently been simplified to give at least the illusion of modernity on a modest budget. The history of roads and road transport pages, seen by many I am sure as an intruder, expands intermittently. Videos have been added, of uneven pertinence to many but not to me or I hope those out there with eclectic tastes. I have also added Powerpoint summaries on some of the pages. Finally, something about the webmaster can be found on this page.

 Now, if you are still here, click for the start page