Just spent an interesting few days in Minsk, Belarus as part of an exchange program with the Belarusian State University. I love visiting new countries and always learn a lot. We tend to stress the differences between countries rather than the similarities and it's so easy to fall into the trap of wondering why they don't do things the way we do. Campus life here seemed pretty similar to most other places I've visited and many conversations confirmed that we all have similar concerns about improving teaching quality, finding time for all the administration and so on.
The teachers and students I met showed great interest in net-based education and many already used social networks, wikis, blogs etc. The problem is a lack of bandwidth which seems to be a pretty expensive commodity at present. The technical know-how may be in place, the tools familiar but you can't get anywhere without a good plump connection to the net. Some claimed to have much better net access from home than from campus. It must be frustrating to see what everyone else is doing out there and not be able to take part in it all as much as you'd like to.
It made me more aware of the preconditions for our net-based society that we tend to take for granted. If the telecom operators and governments don't invest in getting broadband to everyone then we simply can't participate in Web 2.0, virtual worlds, e-meetings etc.
I got the impression that companies in Minsk did have good net access so there it's there if you want it, but the price is too high for cash-strapped higher education. We need to remember sometimes that we were there not terribly long ago; remember websites with animated ads that took ages to appear or trying to watch video clips that took an eternity to download?
Otherwise Minsk is well worth a visit; incredibly clean, nicely renovated and with a fascinating mixture of impressive Soviet era architecture with ultra-modern structures like the new National Library. It's particularly interesting to see statues of Lenin and Soviet street names brushing shoulders with shiny new glass "business centres", up-market designer shops and the familiar twin arches of Ronald McDonald.