Going autonomous with wireless networks
By Karel Novotny
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC, 05 March 2007
“TRICALCAR” is a Spanish abbreviation that stands for Weaving Wireless Community Networks in Latin America and the Caribbean (Tejiendo Redes Inalámbricas Comunitarias en América Latina y el Caribe). But much more than an abbreviation, it is in fact a project. It brings together ten partner organisations that are all dedicated to training Latin American computer network administrators in building and administering community wireless networks.
The two-year project not only aspires to support wireless network building, but also to ‘weave networks’ of people interested in how wireless technology can benefit communities and development efforts.
Planning based on African experience
Started in February 2007, the TRICALCAR project is already taking shape in the second half of March, when partners are meeting in one of the future workshop venues – Huaral Valley, Peru. There, the planning of the project coordination, organisation of training workshops and the development of training material will be cranked up a notch.
TRICALCAR is not starting from scratch though, since a recently concluded project in Africa got participants inspired. TRICALCAR is modelling some of its project elements on the African lead. Interestingly enough, one of the partners in the project, Swedish organisation IT +46, was already active with such a similar project involving APC’s Nigerian member Fantsuam Foundation in 2005.
Activities will thereby include localization and development of training materials, organisation of three large workshops in Peru, Argentina and Mexico and building of an online resource centre and support system for trained wireless network administrators. As a tangible contribution to all three host countries, the workshop trainers will leave their wireless networks in place once their workshop is over.
The project idea is to provide training, resources and permanently link those who grasp and create wireless networks’ value to communities with those who are in need of such networks.
Why wireless makes sense
The emphasis on employing wireless technology for building community networks is natural. Using low cost and recycled materials, communities can build networks that they maintain and administer themselves. By owning the network infrastructure, they are becoming less dependent on service providers. Moreover, in some rural locations, the wireless connection is cheaper and easier to set up than conventional wired infrastructure due to topography and environmental conditions.
The TRICALCAR project partners include people and organisations with years of experience in using wireless networks for development projects, along with organisations that are only now exploring the technology.
Those who came together are the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and its member organisations Nodo Tau (Argentina), Cepes (Peru), EsLaRed (Venezuela), Colnodo (Columbia) and LaNeta (Mexico), the APC Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP), the Swedish organisation IT +46 and the Wilac.net portal.
Project TRICALCAR has been financially supported by the Institute for Connectivity in the Americas ICA.