How are APC members improving their communities’ lives? In this column we’re highlighting stories of impact and change by our members, supported by APC subgranting. Such support helped Fantsuam Foundation to acquire the infrastructure needed for its work on empowering community members, particularly women, to find means of employment and income to meet their own development needs using ICTs.
Fantsuam Foundation is a rural-based non-governmental organisation that has been working with local communities to fight poverty and disadvantage through integrated development programmes since 1996. The change they have been seeding for decades is remarkable: working in 53 communities across seven local government areas in Kaduna State, Nigeria, it estimates that over to 15,000 individuals benefit from its services every year.
The organisation was one of the earliest promoters of ICTs (information and communications technologies) for development in northern Nigeria. In order to do so, access and power have been two important areas to focus on over the years. Fantsuam also established the first community wireless network in northern Nigeria in May 2006. Over the years, the Fantsuam Foundation Community Network (FFCN) has remained resilient, growing its reach and service provision, especially in the area of building digital skills and knowledge with community members.
Today, Fantsuam Foundation is also one of the lead organisations in national advocacy for digital inclusion, especially for the use of TV white space to promote affordable internet access for unserved and underserved rural communities.
A training on community networks at Fantsuam Foundation
Solar infrastructure enabling positive impact
The organisation highlights the importance of power supply availability and stability to FFCN not only to continue providing digital literacy and internet access services to community members, but also to allow the foundation to maintain its advocacy work. And access to APC subgrating has made a difference here: “Getting our solar infrastructure up and running has been the most exciting achievement for us. Without the grant we could not have renewed our critical infrastructure of an alternative source of power and engaged in the wide-ranging advocacy to our regulator that we achieved,” says John Dada, Fantsuam Foundation director and founder.
Fantsuam Foundation's solar infrastructure: the panels installed outside, inverters and batteries
While advocating for better regulation to promote internet access, the foundation builds on education initiatives and on promoting community ownership of ICTs, especially for women and the youth, to build digital democracy and promote local development.
According to the organisation, FFCN is the only existing centre in the region that teaches a very broad ICT curriculum, going from the basics to recent developments in this field, such as discussion around artificial intelligence.
The community network's strong background in this field has been recognised by several local tertiary institutions that started to send their students to learn from FFCN during the mandatory 12-16 week industrial training that takes place in the region.
One of major takeaways from these trainings was the skill acquired on the solar power installation process. “The quality of the digital training at FFCN is quite different from the one in my parent school," explains Jennifer Audu, one of the students. "There was more practical demonstration of the various topics that we were taught. It was during this industrial training period that we were informed that a solar engineer would be doing some installation for the Fantsuam community network and we were invited to join the team. I must say that this aspect of my industrial training experience is the best thing that I have ever been involved in in my career."
Fantsuam Foundation Community Network: the team examining Libre Routers and a demonstration with antenna and radios
As the foundation is always harvesting the impacts of their work, the positive changes continued coming even in challenging times. According to the organisation, shortly after the solar infrastructure installations, Fantsuam received several positive mentions in their region. "The most promising of these was our selection to have our facilities upgraded into an ICT hub that will be able to support start-ups in our region,” notes Theresa Tafida, Fantsuam Foundation secretariat. "We have attended the inaugural meeting for this new programme and it seems to us that the impact of this solar infrastructure upgrade has opened up new opportunities for staff and organisational capacity building. And this is only the beginning."
This piece is a version of a story highlighted in Continuing the conversation: Lessons from APC subgranting, a report that presents the findings of interviews and surveys of APC members and partners who were recipients of funding through its core subgranting programme, supported by Sida, and of subgrants offered through other APC projects and staff working on subgranting in the organisation. The piece was complemented with information from a story and the images sent by Theresa Tafida from Fantsuam Foundation to share their reflections from the catalytic grant experience with the APC team.
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