As part of the “Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives” project, 12 community network organisations (four in Africa, four in Asia and four in Latin America) were selected and granted funding towards activities that create and foster a peer learning community. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing stories from the members of this peer community about local impacts of the work they carried out with the help of this funding. Today, we are featuring a story that was shared with us by Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities (ASORCOM), an organisation that develops autonomous, community-managed wireless networks to overcome barriers to internet access in rural and remote communities in Myanmar.
ASORCOM was empowered by the Connecting the Unconnected learning grant, because we gained a lot of experiences and knowledge. We strongly believe that when building community networks in Myanmar and our neighbouring countries, it is our duty and our responsibility not only to help communities get internet connectivity, but also to inspire and empower each and everyone in the community to work towards their development by themselves. Now, we clearly understand that the ultimate principle of building a community network is not just the technology, the internet connectivity, but it is about working with the community, building trust, providing support and sharing skills for their sustainable development. Special thanks to Nico Pace [the project’s movement building coordinator] for his commitment and sharing the inspiration.
In addition, we are now becoming more deeply involved with more communities, including women, kids and youth, working collectively in different focus areas on the same platform, united by the same vision.
We learned more about the core concept of community-based approaches to finding solutions for challenges, which gives the ownership of development to the community. Knowledge and experience sharing among the networks brings the spirit of teamwork and the power of collaboration. The project gave us opportunities to learn concepts and the required technologies to create new job opportunities for the community to solve their challenges. Specifically, nine young people began start-up businesses and have now become the shareholders of the connectivity platform and services. Their businesses and services are in these areas:
Metal and carpentry workshops
Networking installation services
Community ISP model to bring customised and localised news and information to the communities
Cybersecurity training and solutions
Wi-Fi radio over the community network
Development of a one-hour talk show programme about community networks, community media and the challenges involved, for broadcast on the Mizzima TV channel, which highlights the need for community networks and community media in rural communities in Myanmar.
We also want to create more educational content for young people in rural communities. Our ideas include creating a mini weather station using Raspberry Pi and the community network; a Wi-Fi-based animal tracking system within the community network to study the living patterns in the area of Mithun or Gayal cows, which can be used for commercial livestock farming in the future; e-commerce services and platforms for farmers; and a biodiversity data collection platform to support farmers through the community network.