Last week was an exceptionally exciting week for the African Regional Bureau as we successfully held, in partnership with the Association for Progressive Community (APC), the 3rd Summit on Community Networks in Africa from 2-7 September 2018, at Wild Lubanzi Trail Lodge, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
The objective of the Summit was to promote the creation and growth of community networks, increase collaboration between community network operators in Africa and to provide an opportunity for them to engage with other stakeholders.
The event was attended by more than 100 participants from at least 18 countries worldwide, 13 from Africa (Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, DRC, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia) and 5 from Spain, Germany, Argentina, India, and the U.S. The formal opening of the Summit was addressed by representatives from the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services of South Africa.
This year’s Summit turned out to be very special as 12 established community networks in Africa and 18 other communities (particularly from rural South Africa interested to replicate initiatives) attended and contributed to the discussions held throughout the 6 days.
The week started with 2 days of training, which provided community network operators with clear understandings of the technical elements which are required from accessing the Internet/broadband all the way to the end user as well as the technical elements which are required in order to access it on their own.
Day 3 and 4 were all about sharing real experiences, showcasing innovative technological approaches being used by community networks and in-depth discussions on how community networks are uniquely positioned in building wireless bridges to connect the unconnected in Africa. The community networks and participants also benefited from the discussions held around:
- The strategies on how to bring more women into the community networks space
- The current community networks financial and business models and opportunities that can support their sustainability
- The creation of a conducive policy and regulation environment that encourage and support growth of community networks
- The opportunities for community networks to collaborate with each other and build partnerships locally and internationally to promote collaboration
The last 2 days of the Summit were very special in terms of proving that community networks are all about the people. Everyone attending the Summit had the unforgettable opportunity of engaging with the Zenzeleni Network teams in the villages of Zithulele and Mankosi, homes of the Zenzeleni Community. The site visits gave hands-on training experience for community networkers about the technical and practical set-up of community networks.
Last but not least, the commitment and excitement of the participants was rewarding. It is clear that we have a vibrant community in the making.
I can fully say that the Summit has been a great success in building a group of community networkers who will work together to connect the unconnected across Africa. I would like to thank all my colleagues who worked hard for the success: Michuki Mwangi, Marsema Tariku, Betel Hailu, and Jane Coffin, who were there but also those who worked remotely for the success of the Summit.
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Photo ©Internet Society/Nyani Quarmyne/Panos Pictures