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This book reflects many of the ideas discussed by the members of the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, between 2016 and 2017. 

In 2015 the world made an important promise to itself. The United Nations set out 17 Global Goals – the Sustainable Development Goals – aimed at achieving extraordinary things in the next 15 years, including fighting injustice and inequalities, ending climate change, beating discrimination, bringing in sustainable energy, and making sure no one goes hungry. We are now into the second year of working to keep that global promise. It is an enormous task. Rough estimates say that we will need at least $1 trillion in additional annual investment in developing and emerging economies to achieve them, so it’s not surprising that many wonder whether achieving these noble goals is even possible. The Internet Society says it is. We know and work with people empowered by the Internet every day who believe the same.

The Internet itself is an enabler for the Goals. We will be able to get there faster and in a way that lasts, if everyone can access the Internet and benefit from it. In fact, SDG 9 focuses on the important role infrastructure and connectivity plays in connecting the least connected places on the planet. Here is the good news: according to a UN report on SDG 9 – in 2016, 95% of the worlds’ population and 85% of people in the least developed countries were covered by a mobile signal.

Therefore, while four billion of the world’s seven billion citizens are not yet connected, we have a real and present opportunity to bring all our people into our shared emerging digital future. People around the world are dedicating their professional lives to ensuring that people in the hard to reach places on the planet are connected.

One of the ways to deliver that access is through community networks. Community networks are a complimentary way - across various sectors, economies, and technologies – to provide connectivity. They offer a way for anyone, anywhere, to be able to connect to the Internet as long as they have the right tools, partnerships, and support. By empowering people in underserved villages across the world to connect themselves and their communities – community networks provide access where traditional or commercial networks do not reach or serve, or to areas where it may not be economically viable to operate. They offer a complementary alternative to traditional, commercial telecommunications networks.

Community networks also are a way to develop future business by creating “digitally savvy” communities, hungry for more local content and additional services. These often are not super hightech networks. They serve a local community-driven purpose to connect within and to connect from the village or community “out”. They might be local open-source 2G solutions, or Wi-Fi mesh solutions using license-free spectrum. The aim is to build capacity for both the demand and the supply of digital tools. The Internet Society currently is supporting over 20 projects using different technologies to fulfill community needs with our partners.

(Extracted from the preface by Kathryn Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Internet Society).