Community networks at the Africa Internet Summit

Networking with educational institutions on community networking and advocacy efforts on TV White Space were our main interests when we accepted participating in the Africa Internet Summit, between 22 May and 2 June in Nairobi. My colleague from Fatsuam Foundation Yakubu Ezekiel and I attended this summit thanks to an APC grant for a project titled “Community Networking in Conflict Situations”.

The summit comprised four high-powered events which provided ample opportunities for networking, sharing and learning:  a Wireless Networking Technical Workshop, the 2nd Summit on Community Networks in Africa, the Tunapanda-NET CN Technical Setup in Kibera, and the Africa Internet Summit. We particularly value the hands-on experience provided by the world authority on Community Networks, Professor Ermanno Pietrosemoli, from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, and other vital links which we are already exploring in our efforts to establish Community Networks in Nigeria.

How has the summit helped us? To mention a few things, we are now exploring the use of spectrum analyser White Spave, and we are connecting with Rhizomatica, which works on increasing access to mobile telecommunications to the over two billion people without affordable coverage, on a strategy for obtaining social license for deprived communities to get access. We are considering using Google Earth to verify line of sight, and we also the establishment of a School of Community Network whose expertise will be in promoting the growth of technology at the community level, so that can use technology for their communication needs and have control over their local infrastructure. We have started to identify high profile Local Community Network Champions, including Media Monitoring Africa, MMA, N4D Lab, Cambridge University who have also assisted the Tunapanda project, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, ICTP, Butch Shadwell, Technical Coordinator on renewable energy and Glenn McKnight, Project Coordinator IEEE HTC. Northshore Amateur Radio, among others.

In terms of our advocacy efforts on TV White Space with the Nigerian Government internet regulators, we have reflected on its advantages, which include:

  • Access can be adapted for rural development. 

  • The need for self-provision of communication services leads to empowerment and self-determination, and working together helps people to face other challenges together.

  • It is important to point out that usually where there is no internet, there is also no water, no education, no food, no roads, no housing. Therefore, CN provides an opportunity for people to meet and decide that they can get things done together. It helps to empower the people to help themselves rather than providing them with services.

  • We are happy to share that the LCNS Project, Libre Community Network Server Project is willing to contribute to development of solutions to some of our technical software problems. 

The Africa Internet Summit has marked a turning point in our work on community networks. Stay tuned, as we will be sharing more soon.

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