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Internet beneficiaries in the AndesInternet beneficiaries in the Andes In 2007-8, APC members from Latin America and partners trained local ICT trainers, community leaders and telecentre operators on the basic principles of setting up wireless internet access in their communities.

Three six-day workshops were held (as part of a project known as TRICALCAR) in the Andes, Central American and Southern Cone regions and were designed to cover the technical and social challenges that can arise in community networking initiatives. During the hands-on workshops, participants learned how to set up functional wireless networks with the intention of returning home to apply their new knowledge and skills in their own communities.

APC spoke to a number of participants earlier this year and asked them about the wireless connections they’ve been involved in since then.

Juan Cadillo, Peru: Juan reports that his organisation, the Peruvian Alliance for Knowledge Management (Alianza Peruana para la Gestión del Conocimiento), has installed wireless networks in two district municipalities in Ancash (a northern department on the Pacific coast), improving the use of existing VSAT satellite links and providing internet access to nearby schools. Two universities have incorporated TRICALCAR materials into their courses, so that students can now choose wireless network implementation as a final project for degree programmes.

Juan Pablo Neira, Colombia: Juan Pablo is assisting the FundeWilches Foundation, which promotes development in a community of oil palm growers, to install four networks which will provide access to 48 remote locations, including 21 educational centres, one senior citizens’ home, eighteen organisations, five businesses and three hospitals.

Freddy Bohorquez, Bolivia: Freddy works for the Centre for Research and Advancement of Campesinos (Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado). The centre has improved the inter-institutional network in San Ignacio de Moxos (capital of one of the country’s largest provinces) which currently interconnects fourteen institutions and eight private connection points via a satellite connection shared through the centre’s wireless network. One month after the workshop, they helped the Santa Rosa del Sara municipality in Santa Cruz set up its municipal wireless network. At the moment their largest effort is centred on the installation of a community educational network in the municipality of Aymara de Viacha. This network will provide a telecommunications platform for the initial establishment of three services for Aymara indigenous communities: access to the municipal telephone exchange (through VoIP), access to the internet, and access to local educational portals in the municipality of Viacha.

Paco Olaya, Ecuador: Upon returning from the workshop, Paco worked on the installation of a wireless network for a financial institution in the coastal province of Machala (financed by the IADB) in order to optimise micro-credit in the region. It established links between agencies in three provinces over a 52-km link with 50-metre and 35-metre towers. This is a banana-growing region, with very tall, dense vegetation. Paco also received a scholarship for more training in Italy.

Juan de Urraza, Paraguay: Juan reported that participation in the Rosario workshop was useful for checking the topology of the Oportunet project’s network, evaluating other devices and protocols, as well as experimenting with VoIP and possible applications not currently permitted in Paraguay. Thanks to the new skills acquired at the workshop, the Oportunet project successfully applied for a CISCO Foundation grant for equipment valued at $24,376 USD to establish point-to-point connections and retransmit the Oportunet signal to areas beyond the original one hundred points.

Read more about the Latin American TRICALCAR and the community wireless in Africa projects

Wireless materials were produced in English, French, Arabic and Spanish. All training units are freely available for download on the ItrainOnline website

Photo by Paco Olaya Pabón: Andean communities. such as the Mulalilo community in Ecuador can now benefit from wireless internet access