Community Module: Overview

community_module_overview Implementing Projects at the Community Level: Overview Paper

Tina James, icteum consulting, South Africa

1.1.1  Introduction

1.1.2  Innovative technology options
        Mobile telephony and applications
       Wireless technologies

1.1.3  Business models and options for community ICT projects
        3.1    Community-owned and community-driven models
        3.2    Cooperatives
        3.3    Government-driven models
        3.4    Private sector-driven models and community-based entrepreneurial development

1.1.4  Recommendations for successful project implementation

Case studies

1.1.1  Introduction

In recent years there has been increased interest in the empowerment of the poor through the provision of low-cost and more affordable information and communication technologies (ICTs). This requires pro-poor supportive policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure a conducive environment for the development of appropriate and affordable ICT infrastructure in underserved areas; the upscaling of such initiatives to provide services which are easily accessible and affordable to the poor on a larger scale; the ongoing sustainability of the projects through sufficient funding, ownership and commitment; the allocation of sufficient human resources to maintain them; and the provision of relevant content which is seen as having value to the poor to improve their livelihoods and quality of life. This overview provides a synthesis of the emerging possibilities and issues for implementing innovative technology options in community-level projects, and particularly in poor, marginalised and underserved communities.

Equitable access can seldom be achieved through the initiatives of an individual institution or government ministry, nor can it be seen as the territory of only public utilities or large private telecoms operators – the scale of required effort to reach unattractive markets (generally the poorer and more remote areas) is just too large in most cases, with little financial return for the traditional providers of telecoms services. This calls for a pro-poor policy approach in order to reach the bottom-most sections of developing societies. A detailed analysis on the need for a pro-poor approach can be seen in the Policy and Regulatory Issues module of this toolkit.

What has however emerged to address the needs of underserved communities has been the development of a range of innovative business models involving different owners and players such as municipal and local governments, cooperatives, community-owned and/or community-driven models, and those driven by the private sector, both large companies and small local entrepreneurs. These new models are generally implemented on a smaller scale; make use of low-cost technologies such as wireless networks and the incorporation of open source software; and show strong community commitment through various means, such as the contribution of “sweat equity” to install equipment or the purchase of shares by community members to provide start-up capital.

Implementing ICT access projects in poor and marginalised communities presents many challenges: lack of access to ICT infrastructure; lack of power supplies to operate ICT equipment; lack of knowledge about available and rapidly changing technologies; lack of human resource capacity to develop, install and maintain technologies; lack of access to financing to upscale projects; lack of public awareness of the benefits of ICT access; navigating through local bureaucracies; and unsupportive policy and regulatory environments. In addition, gender inequities are generally evident in accessing ICTs, with specific interventions required to redress this situation. We will therefore include examples of how community projects have addressed such issues and provide lessons that could be adopted elsewhere, through the presentation of three case studies:
This overview addresses implementation from each of the following perspectives:
1.1.2  Innovative technology options

ICTs refer to a wide range of old, new and emerging technologies which include radio, television, voice and data transmission through fixed-line and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephony, and more recently the rapid development of new and emerging technologies in mobile telephony and a range of wireless technologies. Recent ICT developments and the possibilities emerging from combining technologies such as the internet and mobile technology have threatened traditional mainstream (“old”) media, resulting in lowered public consumption. This has resulted in them increasingly turning to the use of mobile and web-based applications to reach their audiences, as well as to allow their audiences to contribute content, thereby increasing the level of interactivity available to citizens.  

The choice of technologies can play a major role in determining the extent to which ICTs are appropriated by the poor. Radio is generally still the most accessible of technologies, and the rise in community radio has played a significant role in providing locally relevant information to poor communities.

Since the 1990s much attention has been given to providing telephone and internet access to underserved communities through the provision of public internet access points (PIAPs). Universal service and access funds have been created in many countries through government-driven mechanisms to provide the necessary funding for implementing access mechanisms such as public kiosks and community telecentres,[2] where phone and internet services are provided at an affordable cost. On the whole, telecentres have faced enormous challenges and have had limited success in achieving universal access for a number of reasons: unreliable and expensive access to the internet through fixed-line connectivity and satellite communications, unreliable power supplies, and lack of commitment and ownership, to mention but a few.[3] The advent of wireless technologies has opened up new and affordable ways to provide widespread access to ICTs and more equitable access by the poor.    

Technology-neutral options and solutions (i.e., deliberate policy measures not to favour one or a few particular technological options) such as open standards, open hardware and open source are increasingly promoted to provide better options to encourage community-level innovations. (For a detailed analysis, refer to the Policy and Regulatory Issues module overview.)

Mobile telephony and applications

Mobile communications have seen remarkable growth worldwide, with over two billion subscriptions expected by the end of 2008. The uptake in developing countries has been dramatic, with Africa showing an annual growth of 39% for 2006-2007 and Asia with 28% growth during the same period.[4] About 45% of sub-Saharan African villages were connected by mobile in 2006. Mobile telephony has also emerged as the predominant form of access in the Latin American and Caribbean countries with usage increasing from four million in 1995 to over 300 million ten years later.[5] In many cases, this is the only form of communication available to the poor. This penetration has in many cases been achieved in the absence of universal service and access policies.[6]

The increasing affordability and flexibility of mobiles, and the evidence that pro-poor usage is contributing to the large-scale pervasiveness of uptake, point to a changed economic model for the provision of telecommunications despite low revenue returns per user in these markets. The provision of mobile telecommunications, however, requires costly installations within managed regulatory frameworks, with ownership in the hands of private and/or government-owned companies. This makes community ownership an unviable option, but what has developed are innovative approaches by the poor to reduce the costs of mobile usage through the extensive use of prepaid systems, shared use of mobile phones, use of call-back, the informal “selling” of phone services by those who own mobiles, the extensive use of text messaging, and a range of micro-financing schemes for mobile vendors. Listed below are some examples to illustrate the varied use of mobile to serve the poor:

An extended range of services and applications is being offered to benefit poor communities, in areas such as the provision of market information to farmers through text messaging, mobile banking for the poor, and the use of PDAs (personal digital assistants, or handheld computers) in the provision of improved health services (see the case study on the Mozambique Health Information Network). To illustrate the range of applications, we present a few examples below:

While mobile phone penetration has been very significant, there are still many areas where mobile operators are highly unlikely to provide services, particularly in remote and sparsely populated areas with poor communities who cannot afford to spend much on communications costs. New entrants into the mobile field are also unlikely to find such areas attractive, and the inherently centralised structures of mobile networks (a top-down model with few players) and high installation costs also present further challenges.

The advent of new types of wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and WiMAX and the building of grassroots, community-driven (bottom-up) wireless networks have, however, created new opportunities for reaching the rural poor.   

Wireless technologies

The most significant group of technologies which has developed since the early 1990s is referred to as Wi-Fi, a wireless networking platform based on an international standard called 802.11 and operating in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum range, with a limited range of about 150 metres. It was originally developed to function in indoor environments using unlicensed spectrum and allowed local wireless networks to be set up in buildings. In the late 1990s this gave rise to the IEEE[13] 802.11b standard which provided interoperability and allowed different computers and laptops to be linked in a network without the hassle and expense of cables. This was rapidly extended to deployment in outdoor environments, allowing computer equipment to be linked wirelessly between buildings and over short distances.

The fact that Wi-Fi operates on open standards has meant that service providers have choices in terms of which technologies and software they deploy in setting up their networks and that they are not locked into using proprietary software and equipment. For poorer communities, this creates opportunities in establishing low-cost networks with locally available technology that can be purchased off the shelf and at relatively low cost. The flexibility in technology combinations also enables smaller players to play in the telecommunications space, allowing them to offer telephony and internet provision to local communities. In many countries, however, regulatory frameworks have prohibited the provision of such services, and advocacy actions need to be undertaken to ensure that these are changed to accommodate the deployment of Wi-Fi networks. Two of the case studies developed for this project implementation module (on the Huaral Agrarian Information System and the Nepal Wireless Networking Project) both illustrate how lobbying for changes in regulations has resulted in the successful provision of telecoms services in poor communities. In the case of Huaral, the irrigation board, a local community-based organisation serving farming communities, is allowed to offer telecoms services to its members, which was not previously allowed. In the case of the Nepal project, the cost of licence fees was substantially reduced (from USD 2,000 to under USD 2), thus enabling these community-driven networks to be affordable and more likely to be economically sustainable.

In the past five years, a new standard has been developed – IEEE 802.16, more commonly known as WiMAX – which operates over a larger range of frequencies (between 2 and 11 GHz) and has the ability to provide improved broadband offerings over a longer distance of 35 to 40 kilometres. It is, however, not as yet an affordable technology and is still subject to regulatory restrictions in many countries.[14]

Wireless networks have been successfully implemented across a range of projects and are proving to be sustainable and affordable in providing access to communities, particularly because of their reduced maintenance requirements. Online communities of enthusiastic wireless network specialists have also evolved which can provide assistance in terms of know-how.[15] The following examples illustrate the variety of ways in which wireless networks are being implemented in community projects:

1.1.3  Business models and options for community ICT projects

The availability of innovative technology options has also opened the field for the emergence of new types of business models to establish more affordable ICT access for the poor. The barriers to entry have been lowered as a result of the lower start-up investment costs required; the availability of information (and an increasing range of case studies) on bottom-up approaches to establish community networks and ICT access programmes; and technology convergence, which has opened up new and more affordable possibilities. There has also been widespread interest from the international donor community in exploring whether community-owned models are likely to have a place in the implementation of ICT-enabled projects.  

3.1    Community-owned and community-driven models

Community participation in projects can be placed along a continuum of levels of involvement.[20] These do not necessarily apply to implementation in poor communities only, as the models can also be found in projects outside the development context, nor are they only applicable to projects underpinned by the application of emerging ICT technologies.

Modalities for community involvement
  • Community contributions through “sweat equity”, where community members see benefit in offering their time in project implementation. This could be through the setting up of equipment,
  • the building of infrastructure, the provision of security at community centres to safeguard ICT equipment, or the contribution of volunteer training to other community members.
  • Community management through the use of culturally appropriate decision-making processes, which could take the form of consultation with local leader groups, the establishment of management structures such as community forums, or the use of existing or specially convened community structures such as women’s groups or church groups.
  • More formal management structures such as the creation of a hierarchical structure with employed staff (voluntary and/or paid), or the establishment of a board of directors, advisory committees, or elected local officials who are bound contractually to provide strategic direction for the project. The irrigator commissions comprising locally elected farmers in the Huaral case study would fall into this category.
  • Community ownership through various mechanisms such as cooperatives (see the section on cooperatives below), where community members or workers own shares and have voting rights
  • in the project, as in the case of unions.    

Emerging community-driven models

The ease of deployment and relatively low-cost investment for wireless networks for voice and data services have led to numerous pilots and feasibility studies to determine whether these can be applied in poor communities, with community ownership and ongoing maintenance provided through partnerships and support from the community. The Huaral and Nepal case studies are both examples of community-driven models where ownership resides in local community structures (farmer-owned irrigator commissions and schools, respectively).

A series of studies recently commissioned by UNDP explore the feasibility of various types of community-driven models in four East African countries.[21] The studies, undertaken as collaborative projects between governments, communities and local research institutions in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, present business plans and estimated costs for the installation and maintenance of community-based wireless networks, including energy requirements and costs, a critical factor often neglected in implementation.[22] The studies also point to the need for policy and regulatory frameworks to take cognisance of bottom-up community-driven approaches to the provision of telecoms services in underserved communities.

3.2    Cooperatives

The establishment of cooperatives to meet the cultural, economic and social needs of communities has long been in existence, whether in the building of infrastructure such as electricity and irrigation systems, for mutual benefit in farming communities through the purchase of seed and agricultural equipment, or for achieving political gains such as the cooperatives formed during the apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Telecoms cooperatives have generally developed in rural and remote communities where traditional telecoms operators have no interest in providing services. Cooperatives can play a significant role in providing ICTs to poor and remote communities, although they have been implemented in only a few countries, but with widespread success. The model has been successfully adopted in countries such as the USA, Argentina and Bolivia.23 Although a cooperative model, the situation in Poland is somewhat different in that the Telecommunications Act of 1990 allowed the creation of 44 licences which were in competition with the government-owned operator.[24] In South Africa, specific licences are being awarded for services in underserved areas (USALs).  

All were first established to provide fixed-line services before the advent of mobile and the possibilities opened up by wireless networking. The earliest examples of ICT-based cooperatives can be found in the late 1950s/early 1960s in rural USA and Argentina, where the roll-out of telecommunications infrastructure was largely achieved through the establishment of rural community cooperatives – through financial contributions and shared ownership, and the provision of “sweat equity” to install shared infrastructure for the provision of telecommunication services. Many of these cooperatives still exist today and continue to provide a range of voice and data services to small, rural and underserved communities; the fact that they provide multiple services has been a key element in their sustainability. The successful implementation of the cooperative has also been dependent on the creation of favourable interconnect agreements with incumbent telecoms operators and/or the provision of subsidies, as in the case of the USA. Most of the cooperatives were also initiated before the advent of mobile telephony, which has had a significant effect on their ability to sustain operations.

3.3    Government-driven models

Numerous initiatives to address pro-poor ICT access have been driven through government efforts, the most well known in use being the establishment of universal service or access funds. Models take various forms, whether through the provision of subsidies to needy persons directly, subsidies to telecentre operators to ensure some measure of financial sustainability, or grants and subsidies to telecommunications operators for the provision of ICT infrastructure in areas where market forces do not operate. These public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been put in place largely through procurement processes for the establishment of pro-poor access.[25]

Municipal broadband networks

The establishment of municipal broadband networks has been an interesting recent development, where a non-market model has been adopted to provide a broadband facility for communities in much the same way that roads are provided for the common good.[26] Efforts have sprung up throughout the developed world, and particularly in the USA, with examples of residents building and maintaining their own networks, such as in Bristol, Virginia. Examples from developing countries include Knysna, South Africa and the Nepal Wireless Networking Project (see the case study in this toolkit). The advent of low-cost wireless networks, or combined fibre-wireless networks, has resulted in competitive services to communities which rival those in larger cities.[27] There have also been statements from the government of India that it intends to offer free broadband connectivity at a speed of 2 Mb per second across the country, using its Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to provide the financing.[28] Whether this will include service provision in poorer and more remote areas remains to be seen.
Service delivery to communities

Beyond universal service funds, various examples exist where governments have taken the lead in ICT service delivery to communities, with or without external partners. For example, the government of India has undertaken numerous activities to provide services to the poor:
3.4    Private sector-driven models and community-based entrepreneurial development

The private sector is increasingly starting to show an interest in reaching previously unreached communities. The existence of social networks within local communities, coupled with the extended range of low-cost wireless and converged technologies now available, present an opportunity to provide a range of services to the mutual benefit of poor communities and the private sector. Notable examples can be found in banking and a variety of innovative applications emerging in agricultural production. These emerging models illustrate how communities can benefit from the organisational capacities, market reach and capital investments brought in by the private sector, as well as a new range of services on offer in communications and services. This is underpinned by support mechanisms to grow entrepreneurial skills in the community through mentoring, skills support networks and technical skills transfer. The creation of new entrepreneurial opportunities through partnerships between small business and communities also provides models for mutual benefit, where entrepreneurs bring their business skills to the table to support social development activities. Some examples to illustrate the application of the model are presented below:

1.1.4  Recommendations for successful project implementation

  • Universal service funds (where they exist) and the provision of subsidies and/or infrastructure roll-out to support ICT provision to underserved communities.[34]
  • Low- or no-interest loans, as was the case in the US rural cooperative model.
  • The “embedding” of a project through partnerships with other institutions to create alternative sources of income such as access to credit through unions or micro-finance businesses (as in the case of the Grameen Village Phone project).
  • The introduction of mechanisms for cost recovery from the community for service delivery, such as:
  • i.member subscriptions
  • ii.the levying of monthly fees from users
  • income from services rendered
  • iv.the provision of “sweat equity” by community members for the installation of networks and ICT equipment
  • v.the use of volunteers to provide support and training
  • contributions such as the provision of buildings or computers
  • vii.the pooling of community resources to provide start-up capital.
  • Requesting donations from the international public, such as the Nepal Wireless Networking Project has done in setting up a fundraising effort in partnership with a US-based university for one-dollar donations, which provides another interesting model.
Case studies

Three case studies have been provided for this module as well as a list of additional resource material. The community projects case studies are outlined below:

Project Project Description Highlights
The Mozambique Health Information Network (MHIN) Health workers use mobile networks and PDAs to collect, transmit, and manage health data as part of implementing government commitments to provide affordable health services to communities The technology users are health workers who are often older in age and less prone to the adoption of new technologies. With proper training, health workers collected information and data from the field that benefited people. The case study illustrates a number of critical elements required for moving a project from prototype to pilot and eventual sustainable roll-out.
The Huaral Valley Agrarian Information System, Peru The project is providing phone and internet access to poor farming communities and access to an agrarian information system Although originally planned as an ICT installation to manage the network of irrigation canals for local farmers, the project has evolved into the provision of telecoms and internet access for poor farming communities that would otherwise have been excluded from such resources.
Nepal Wireless Networking Project Low-cost and easy-to-maintain wireless networks used in harsh and remote locations in Nepal to provide phone and internet access to dispersed and marginalised communities A combination of strong community support and effective local leadership is delivering much-needed communications, community and entrepreneurial services. This case study serves as an excellent example of how a community-based project can be implemented with few resources but was able to challenge existing policy frameworks to allow for the use of innovative technologies to provide ICT access to poor communities.

There are also case studies in other modules of this toolkit which are relevant to projects being implemented at a community level:

Project Project Description Highlights
Providing Universal Access: FITEL, Peru This programme provides mechanisms for minimising the subsidy required for commercial telecoms companies to extend the network into non-commercial areas Evidence has shown that the installation of public phones has enabled people to save on transportation costs. The project reduced the distance to the nearest public phone from more than twenty kilometres to less than five kilometres for over one million people. Anecdotal evidence has also shown that rural phones have increased the incomes of store owners who provide public phone services.


Benkler, Yochai The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006

Escudero-Pascual, Alberto Tools and technologies for equitable access Montevideo: APC, 2008

Galperin, Hernan and Bruce Girard “Chapter 8: Microtelcos in Latin America and the Caribbean”. In Diversifying Participation in Network Development: Case Studies and Research from WDR Research Cycle 3 edited by Amy Mahan and William H. Melody. Montevideo: IDRC/infoDev/LIRNE.NET/Comunica, 2007

Gillwald, Alison and Christoph Stork Towards an African e-Index: ICT access and usage across 16 African countries Johannesburg: LINK Centre, Witwatersrand University, 2006

infoDev and ITU ICT Regulation Toolkit

International Institute for Communication and Development ICTs for Agricultural Livelihoods: Impact and Lessons Learned from IICD Supported Activities The Hague: IICD, 2006

International Telecommunication Union Measuring Village ICT in Sub-Saharan Africa Geneva: ITU, 2007

International Telecommunication Union Report on the World Summit on the Information Society Stocktaking Geneva: ITU, 2008

Kinkade, Sheila and Katrin Verclas Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in Mobile Use by NGOs Washington: United Nations Foundation-Vodafone Group Foundation, 2008

Kithuka, James, Jacob Mutemi and Ali Hassan Mohamed Keeping Up With Technology: The use of mobile telephony in delivering community-based decentralised animal health services in Mwingi and Kitui Districts, Kenya London: FARM-Africa, 2007

Mariscal, Judith Market Structure and Penetration in the Latin American Mobile Sector Lima: DIRSI, 2007

Navas-Sabater, Juan, Andrew Dymond and Niina Juntunen Telecommunications and Information Services for the Poor: Towards a Strategy for Universal Access Washington: World Bank, 2002

Ó Siochrú, Seán and Bruce Girard Community-based Networks and Innovative Technologies: New models to serve and empower the poor New York: UNDP, 2005

Ó Siochrú, Seán “Empowering Communities through ICT Cooperative Enterprises: The Case of India”. In The Political Economy of the Information Society: A Southern View edited by Parminder Jeet Singh, Anita Gurumurthy and Mridula Swamy. Bangalore: IT for Change, 2008

Porteous, David Banking and the Last Mile: Technology and the Distribution of Financial Services in Developing Countries Somerville: Bankable Frontier Associates, 2006

Porteous, David The Enabling Environment for Mobile Banking in Africa Somerville: Bankable Frontier Associates, 2006

Song, Steve A Commentary on Tools and Technologies for Equitable Access Montevideo: APC, 2008

Stern, Peter A. and David Townsend New Models for Universal Access in Latin America: Summary of Main Report Regulatel/World Bank/ECLAC, 2006

Williams, Mark Broadband for Africa: Policy for Promoting the Development of Backbone Networks Washington: infoDev/World Bank, 2008

Wishart, Neville Micro-Payment Systems and their Applications to Mobile Networks Washington: infoDev, 2006

Women’sNet and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa Mainstreaming ICTs: Africa lives the Information Society Johannesburg: Women’sNet and OSISA, 2005

World Resources Institute What Works: ITC's E-Choupal and Profitable Rural Transformation Washington: World Resources Institute, 2003

[1] CEPES, the organisation responsible for supporting the system, is also a member institution of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

[2] Refer to the module on policy and regulatory issues for a more detailed discussion.

[3] For an overview of the situation of public internet access points in 25 countries, see: This research, completed in October 2008, covers a range of access options such as kiosks, libraries, telecentres, cybercafés and community projects, including an overview of the policy and regulatory environments.

[4] ITU statistics: and

[5] Judith Mariscal Market Structure and Penetration in the Latin American Mobile Sector (Lima: DIRSI, 2007)

[6] ITU Measuring Village ICT in Sub-Saharan Africa (Geneva: ITU, 2007)

[7] For more information see:

[8] Neville Wishart Micro-Payment Systems and their Applications to Mobile Networks (Washington: infoDev, 2006); see also David Porteous The Enabling Environment for Mobile Banking in Africa (Somerville: Bankable Frontier Associates, 2006)

[9] Ethan Zuckerman “Mobile Phones and Social Activism: Why cell phones may be the most important technical innovation of the decade” TechSoup 20 June 2007

[10] The Hub: and Corinne Ramey “Using Mobile Phones to Advance Human Rights” 10 December 2007

[11] Stephanie Hayes “Congolese radio show gives war victims a voice” The Christian Science Monitor 22 March 2007

[12] Sheila Kinkade and Katrin Verclas Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in Mobile Use by NGOs (Washington: United Nations Foundation-Vodafone Group Foundation, 2008)

[13] Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

[14] Alberto Escudero-Pascual Tools and technologies for equitable access (Montevideo: APC, 2008) For a more detailed discussion of the technology options see also: Seán Ó Siochrú and Bruce Girard Community-based Networks and Innovative Technologies: New models to serve and empower the poor (New York: UNDP, 2005)

[15] The International Summit for Community Wireless Networks: 

[16] and

[17] The Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM), developed by the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP), was used to provide possible solutions to engender the provision of wireless network services in the community. For more details, see:


[19] Wireless Africa “Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network: A do-it-yourself guide to planning and building a Freifunk based mesh network”

[20] See Ó Siochrú and Girard, Community-based Networks and Innovative Technologies for a more detailed discussion of various models of community ownership.

[21] Muriuki Mureithi and Albert Nsengiyumva “Community-Driven Networks, Cooperatives and Enterprises: An Emerging Access and Development Model for Rural Areas?” (PowerPoint presentation at the CRASA 10th AGM workshop, Windhoek, Namibia, March 2007)

[22] See for the four country feasibility reports.

[23] Ó Siochrú and Girard, Community-based Networks and Innovative Technologies, 10

[24] infoDev and ITU ICT Regulation Toolkit, Section 3.5.1. Rural Cooperatives (updated 21 November 2008)

[25] See the PowerPoint presentation by Ned White, Institute of Public-Private Partnerships (IP3), 27 February 2007, which provides an overview of PPPs in ICT initiatives, including guidelines for establishing tender and procurement procedures. A case study on Chile’s Universal Development Fund is presented.

[26] For a practical and simple guide on how such municipal networks work, see:

[27] Yochai Benkler The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 405-406

[28] Joji Thomas Philip “Broadband to go free in two years” The Economic Times 26 April 2007

[29] Simone Cecchini and Monica Raina Village Information Kiosks for the Warana Cooperatives in India,,contentMDK:20486701~isCURL:Y~menuPK:702592~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:702586,00.html


[31] David Porteous Banking and the Last Mile: Technology and the Distribution of Financial Services in Developing Countries (Somerville: Bankable Frontier Associates, 2006)

[32] World Resources Institute What Works: ITC's E-Choupal and Profitable Rural Transformation (Washington: World Resources Institute, 2003); see also for a more detailed explanation of the model.

[33] Tectonic “New Tuxlab looks to community for sustainability” Tectonic 15 May 2006

[34] The toolkit module on policy and regulatory issues covers detailed approaches that could be adopted.

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Case Study: The Mozambique Health Information Network (MHIN)

The MHIN case study was selected for inclusion in this toolkit because it illustrates the fulfilment of a number of critical requirements for moving a project from prototype to pilot and eventual sustainable roll-out:
1)The application of an innovative and affordable technology solution involving mobile networks and the use of PDAs by individuals unfamiliar with the use of ICTs, in this case health workers, who are often of an older age and therefore more resistant to the adoption of new technologies.
2)Government commitment to providing better health services to communities, while benefiting from the better availability and accuracy of health data from the field.
3)Cost savings and increased productivity in terms of data collection from districts, including the monitoring of paper-based versus digital data collection systems.
 4)The gradual upscaling of a development project through a collaborative partnership between an NGO (AED-Satellife) and the Ministry of Health, Mozambique.

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Case Study: The Huaral Valley Agrarian Information System, Peru

The Huaral Valley project has been included in this toolkit to illustrate a type of community ownership model in which farmers are directly involved in the decision making and implementation of an agrarian information system. Although originally planned as an ICT installation to manage a network of irrigation canals for local farmers, the infrastructure enables telecoms and internet access for poor farming communities that would otherwise have been excluded from such resources. The project also illustrates the importance of leadership and vision to ensure that lobbying and advocacy are undertaken, both within communities and also with the government. In this case, the community, through its irrigation board, was able to lobby for changes in the existing restrictive ICT policy and regulatory frameworks. The result has been more affordable and widespread ICT access for local communities.

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Case Study: Nepal Wireless Networking Project

The Nepal Wireless Networking Project serves as an excellent example of how a community-based project can be implemented with few resources, but through a display of local leadership and vision was able to challenge existing policy frameworks to allow for the use of innovative technologies to provide ICT access to poor communities. The project illustrates how low-cost and easy-to-maintain wireless networks can be used in harsh and remote locations to provide telephone and internet access to dispersed communities. Under local leadership and with strong community support, local communities are able to provide much-needed communications services as well as other types of services that are run as small businesses (communication centres) or as community services (telemedicine, school networks). Strong local capacity building efforts in ICTs have resulted in the development of a cadre of local experts who can provide technical assistance. In addition, the advocacy efforts of the local champion, Mahabir Pun, resulted in the government changing its restrictive telecoms policies that previously prohibited the use of wireless networks, while also dropping the costs of licences to under USD 2.

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community_module_resources Implementation of Projects

Nepal wireless networking project: case study and evaluation report. 
Wireless networking for rural development

Authors: M. Pun; R. Shields; R. Poudel; P. Mucci
Publisher: Electronic Networking for Rural Asia/Pacific
Date: September 2006

This paper provides an evaluation of the Nepal Wireless Networking Project. The main aim of the project is to bridge the digital divide by mean of wireless technology benefitting the rural population of Nepal. The project is a tangible example of the successful implementation of ICTs that has helped to reduce poverty, create job opportunities, improve communication, encourage e-commerce and increase the quality and availability of healthcare in the rural communities.  
Tags: Nepal, wireless technology, rural, communities, ICTs

Women connect! The power of communications to improve women’s lives
Communications capacity building for African women's NGOs
Authors: Pacific Institute for Women's Health
Publisher: Pacific Institute for Women's Health
Date: 2002

The following report entails the findings of a three-year programme dealing with women’s NGOs in Africa. The project’s main aim was to enable women’s NGOs to communicate better by means of traditional media (posters and brochures), mass media (newspapers, radio, magazines and television) and ICT (email and Internet). The NGOs used these various means of media to communicate and campaign against problems facing women in these areas. The countries included in the project were Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Tags: women, ICT, mass media, traditional media, NGOs

Keeping up with technology: the use of mobile telephony in delivering community-based decentralised animal health services in Mwingi and Kitui Districts, Kenya
Have mobile phones improved animal health services in Kenya?
Authors: J. Kithuka; J. Mutemi; A.,H. Mohamed
Publisher: Farm Africa
Date: 2007
This working paper provides a report of FARM-Africa’s Kenya Dairy Goat and Capacity Building Project (KDGCBP), a project focused in the implementation of mobile and pay phones in the marginalized and resource-poor districts of Mwingi and Kitui, to improve animal health services. These areas have been affected by policy changes by the Kenyan Government, which has resulted in a decline of veterinary personnel over the last twenty years. The paper concludes with the successes of the project with regard to animal health services.
Tags: mobile phones, pay phones, Kenya, animal health services, pro-poor

Sustainable ICT case histories.  Detailed case studies on ICT project successes and sustainability
Authors: S. Batchelor; P. Norrish; N. Scott; M. Webb; Gamos; Big World
Publisher: Department for International Development, UK
Date: October 2003
This report provides 12 detailed case studies that illustrate that ICTs can benefit developments projects. The main aim of the case studies was to implement ICTs in a way that would increase local communities’ access to jobs, improve education and government policy, or expand the reach of current projects in the areas.   The results are not conclusive in terms of sustainability but significant developmental impacts are evident.  The projects fell under five general categories: Information Technology training and telecenters; networks and partnerships; e-commerce; e-services; and radio and education.
Tags: development, ICTs, sustainability, education, government, telecenters

Community-based networks and innovative technologies: New models to serve and empower the poor
Authors: S. Ó Siochrú and B. Girard
Publisher: United Nations Development Programme
Date: 2005
This report looks at how innovative technologies such as wireless networks can be applied in communities where there is a focus on integrating access and connectivity into development models. Various forms of ownership models are discussed, including cooperatives, community-based networks, and empowerment models.   It also examines the policy and regulatory environment and possible financing mechanisms. Pro-poor case studies are included to illustrate various community-owned models.
Tags: community networks, ownership models, pro-poor, policy, regulatory frameworks

A Survey of Rural Communities’ Attitudes on the Use of the SMS and Pod-casting Technology to Promote Human Rights
Authors: L. Mtshali, A. Naidoo and N. Zungu
Publishers: HIVOS
Date: 2007
This survey focuses on the use of mobile phones and pod-cast technology for reporting human right violations. The survey was conducted in five rural areas in the province of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. The UmNyango project aims to use new technologies such as SMS and Pod-casting to report domestic violence; women’s exclusion from access and control of land; participation in government; conflict; and access to justice. A survey was conducted to find out in-depth details about the communities’ use of mobile phones and their attitudes towards using these phones to promote human rights.
Tags: mobile phones, SMS, pod-cast, human rights, survey, South Africa
Livelihood Changes Enabled by Mobile Phones: The Case of Tanzanian Fishermen
Author: J. Myhr and L. Nordström
Publisher: Uppsala University
Date: 2006
This report deals with a field study entailing interviews with Tanzanian fishermen and their use of mobile phones. The study aims to find out if the mobile phone improves the livelihood indicators of empowerment, opportunity and vulnerability to risk, with groups such as Tanzanian fishermen, who have previously been excluded from any means of technological communication. The report reveals that increased access to information by means of mobile phones can impact all the indicators positively.
Tags: mobile phones, livelihoods, fishermen, access, Tanzania, ICTs

Mobile Phones and Development: The Future in New Hands?
Author: R. Heeks and A. Jagun
Publisher: id21 insights
Date: September 2007
This issue of id21 insights covers topics related to mobile phone use within marginalized areas or groups, and the economic advantages associated with mobile phones in disadvantaged communities. Articles include the dissemination of information in Bangladesh villages by means of mobile phones, mobile banking, the impact of mobile phones in Jamaica, and Nigeria’s textile sector, in addition to other articles related to the topic. The policies related to mobile phone use, and their implications are also covered in the issue.
Tags: mobile phones, mobile banking, marginalized communities, policies

Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in Mobile Use by NGOs
Author: S. Kinkade and K. Verclas
Publisher: (Kinkade), (Verclas)
Date: April 29, 2008
This report provides 11 case studies where mobile technology has been used by NGOs and other groups to implement changes in health, the environment and humanitarian relief. The case studies are included to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of mobile technology, focusing on social, political, civil and economic factors. In addition the report includes a survey of mobile technology use in relation to NGOs, where statistics are provided on the use of mobile applications and their perceived benefits.
Tags: NGOs, mobile technology, health, environment, humanitarian relief

Leveraging Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to Support Public Health Workforce Communications and Capacity Development in Central America
Author: CDC Coordinating Center for Health Information and Services
Publisher: CDC
Date:  2007
This short report discusses insights from the implementation of ICTs for health emergencies. The report was supported by the Guatemala branch of the United-States-based Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC). The report found that email was the most preferred method of receiving information in a public health emergency.  The implementation of ICTs, in this case, is useful due to the speedy communication and instructional capabilities available during health emergencies.
Tags: health emergencies, ICTs, email, Guatemala, communication

Computerising agricultural cooperatives: a practical guide
Authors:  UN System Network on Rural Development and Food Security
Publisher: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Date: 2006
This manual provides a reference for agricultural cooperatives that are considering computerization, providing the advantages and disadvantages of the process. The manual is aimed at managers, trainers and policy makers guiding them in a manner that will ensure successful computerization at a local level. The manual is based on experiences in Asia, Africa and South America. The manual also lists “The 10 commandments of Computerisation” outlining the basic rules to follow with regards to computerization.
Tags: agricultural cooperatives, computerization, Asia, Africa, South America, manual

A rural ICT toolkit for Africa
Best practices for the planning, financing and implementing of ICT projects in rural Africa
Authors: Intelecon
Publisher: Infodev
Date: 2003
This toolkit is a collection of prerequisites, best practices and checklists with regard to the planning, financing and implementation of telecom and informatics projects in Africa. The experiences are based on a survey of ten African countries, with specific focus on the rural regions.  Some of the topics covered include: market dynamics and demand analysis, business planning, funding principles and processes, monitoring and evaluation; and best practices for ICT policy in rural areas.
Tags: toolkit, project planning, telecommunications, informatics, Africa, rural, ICT, best practices

Making information and communication technologies work for food security in Africa
How can governments promote food security through ICT development?
Authors: R. Bertolini
Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute
Date: 2004
The following report deals with ICTs (specifically fixed-line, mobile phones and Internet services) that enable the reduction of poverty in Africa. The report focuses on the current availability of ICTs in Africa, opportunities for ICTS in promoting food security and suggestions for improving the promotion of ICT development though government, private and civil society collaboration. In addition the report advises on the private sector’s role with regard to ICTs in development.
Tags:  ICT, development, Africa, food security, poverty

Pro-poor wireless networks (Powerpoint presentation)
This powerpoint presentation by Vic Hayes, the father of wireless networks, provides an easy-to-understand overview of the concept of wireless networks, how they work and where they have been applied.  The powerpoint includes some interesting data on the availability of spectrum, which clearly illustrate the problematic situation regarding unfriendly policy and regulatory environments in Africa as compared to other continents.   
Tags: wireless networks, case studies, spectrum, statistics, Nepal, Ecuador, Denmark

Digital Poverty - Latin American and Caribbean Perspectives
Editors: H. Galperin and J. Mariscal
Publisher: Practical Action Publishing/IDRC
Date: 2007 (ISBN: 978-1-85339-663-2; e-ISBN: 978-1-55250-342-3)
This book deals with the problem of lack of access to ICTs in Latin America and the Caribbean, in addition to the need for ICT policies to focus on pro-poor interventions. The book illustrates how a failure of market reforms has resulted in marginalized areas experiencing a lack of benefits from ICTs, where they are excluded from the Information Society.

Chapter 6 (Selecting sustainable ICT solutions for pro-poor intervention) by Mallalieu and Rocke deals exclusively with an effective model to ensure that communities do not become digitally excluded. The Percolator model is introduced as a framework within which ICT solutions for the poor and marginalized communities can be implemented by means of a ‘distillation’ process, that can be applied on other technologies if need be.

Chapter 7 (Conclusion: ICT and pro-poor strategies and research) by Mahan provides conclusions in relation to ICT demand and supply side issues, regulatory reform and the private sector, consumer advocacy, new ownership models for network service provision and emerging network technology solutions, focusing specifically on the pro-poor aspects.
Tag: ICTs, Latin America, Caribbean, pro-poor, business models , networks

 ‘Open Access’ - An approach for building and financing pro-poor ICT infrastructure
Authors: D. Okello
Publisher: Wougnet
Date: August 2006
This power point presentation provides an open access approach that attempts to build sustainable community-led ICT networks.  The presentation outlines the need for pro-poor ICT networks, the challenges faced by rural communities, and an explanation of the open access approach, with regard to infrastructure, regulation and financing.  The models covered include the promotion of communities to set up their own networks, although regulatory frameworks are essential to ensure corporate companies are forced to adopt open access models.  
Tags: open access models, pro-poor, ICT, wireless, rural, Uganda

Tools and technologies for equitable access
This is one of four papers in a series on equitable access to ICT infrastructure commissioned by the APC. The paper presents an overview of five technology areas, dealing with the issues and strategies as well as providing recommendations.  The five areas covered are:  wireless access; low-cost and low-power computing; open standards, hardware and software; local services and content; and open access and open networks.  
Author:  Alberto Escudero-Pascual
Publisher: Association for Progressives Communications
Date:  November 2007
Tags:  equitable access, ICT, infrastructure, wireless, open networks, open access, low cost computing

Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network - A do-it-yourself guide to planning and building a Freifunk based mesh network
This manual provides a do-it-yourself guide to installing a mesh network in rural areas. It is based on the practical experience of the Meraka Institute, South Africa.  It covers all areas of planning as well as a section on regulatory aspects and service provision.  A planning sheet is provided for managing such an installation.
Author:  David Johnson et al
Publisher:  Wireless Africa, Meraka institute, CSIR, South Africa
Date: November 2007
Tags:  wireless, mesh networks, manual, building, planning, rural, ICTs

Tools and Resources for Support

 Feminist Technology Exchange
The Feminist Technology Exchange helps feminist and women’s rights movements to develop women’s understanding of new technologies. The main aim of the organization is to improve the lives of women by introducing a space where skills and knowledge can be shared in terms of the implementation of ICT. The organization also aims to creative partnerships between advocates of women’s rights, and to develop a community of trainers to sustain lessons learnt from successful partnerships.
Tags:  women’s rights, feminist, ICT, skills, knowledge, partnerships – A portal on Southern Civil Services is a portal representing work done by NGOs and social movements in Southern developing countries. The site provides a list of Southern NGOs, divided into categories and sub-categories. A search function has been implemented for ease of use. The site provides in depth reports, news items and information resources, in addition to information on NGO actions and campaigns.  
Tags: NGOs, developing countries, portal, resources, reports

ShareIdeas – Global
The ShareIdeas website is aimed at teachers, health care professionals, environmentalists, development professionals and others that are interested in sharing resources and ideas with regard to mobile communication, and its ability to bring about positive social change.  The website’s main aim is to bring people across the world together to achieve development goals by means of sharing information through the interactive components of the site, or explore the resources and case studies that are archived.
Tags: sharing, knowledge, mobile communication, social change, interactivity

The International Summit for Community Wireless Networks
The International Summit for Community Wireless Networks is an annual global conference that brings together many of the greatest experts in the world on wireless networking technology, information activism, and community empowerment.

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