Categories
Community Networks Development Growing the Internet

Learning by Doing: Have You Heard of the Suusamyr Community Network in Kyrgyzstan?

Last week, the Internet Society together with our Kyrgyz chapter and the wider local community held discussions about Internet connectivity in remote areas in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Approximately 35% of the Kyrgyz population use the Internet (ITU data, 2017) and most users are located in cities and urban areas.

In cooperation with its Kyrgyz chapter, the Internet Society is piloting the community networks approach in the village of Suusamyr, located some 150 kilometers south of the capital city Bishkek. We had an opportunity to visit this village of about 4000 people, tucked away in a wide valley surrounded by high mountains. The economic activity revolves around farming, horse and cattle keeping, and tourism.

While the final phase of the Suusamyr community network is still under implementation, we can already draw some lessons learnt from the preparatory and testing phases.

Partnerships

As a starting point, the Internet Society Kyrgyz chapter consolidated a partnership with the government, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and the local community in Suusamyr. The Kyrgyz government saw the opportunity for local economic development. Two ISPs agreed to lease their existing backbone infrastructure to connect the last mile. And most importantly, the local community embraced this initiative with a hope that it will provide new opportunities for the people in the community. It is important to have the backing of the key stakeholders.

Licensing and permissions

As in most countries, building Internet infrastructure requires licenses and permissions. While it was relatively simple to get the network operator license, the rules for spectrum licenses in Kyrgyzstan involve costs and time-consuming application processes. Our project team partnered with a regional ISP to share their existing spectrum license. Permissions for land use and power supply for masts can also be complicated. Following discussions with landowners and the national electricity company, the permissions for the Suusamyr project were agreed on by a case-by-case basis. An enabling policy framework is necessary to make progress with connectivity in remote areas.

Demand generation

During our visit to Suusamyr, it was clear that there was enthusiasm and demand for the Internet within the local community. The largest school in Suusamyr had a computer lab, but no Internet connection. The municipality headquarters, the local hospital and small businesses would surely benefit, too. However, the municipality does not yet have concrete plans on how to use the Internet to boost local economic development. There is a need for a local “action group,” which could raise awareness and provide skills training amongst the village population.

The President of the Kyrgyz Republic has named 2018 a year of rural development. This ambition is perfectly aligned with the Internet Society’s goal to connect everyone to the Internet, with a focus on the communities in the hardest to reach places. We aim to have a fully operational community network in Suusamyr in a few months’ time.

Read Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks and Unleashing Community Networks: Innovative Licensing Approaches and help #SwitchItOn!


Photo: The village of Suusamyr, Kyrgyzstan ©Internet Society/Nyani Quarmyne/Panos Pictures

Categories
Internet of Things (IoT)

Talking Internet of Things and Standards @Russian Internet Forum

The Russian Internet Forum (RIF), organised by the Russian Association of Electronic Communications (RAEC) with support of other Russian Internet organisations, took place on the outskirts of Moscow on 13-15 April. This annual event gathers more than 7,000 IT professionals and other Internet enthusiasts to debate the hottest tech trends in Russia and to network with their peers.

This year, the Internet Society (ISOC) joined forces with RAEC to widen the discussion on the role of standards in an increasingly interconnected world. The Internet of Things (IoT) – or Internet+ as it is often referred to in Russia – has become very visible on the Russian policy agenda in the past months. The objective of the panel debate organised by RAEC and ISOC was to address the opportunities and challenges related to the ever more complex connectivity environment and to debate the importance (or not!) of standards.

Although often labelled as a buzzword, the Internet of Things will and already has influenced the connectivity environment both at technical and policy level. In the discussions, the panellists raised concerns about the influx of exported devices, which could become a risk to the Russian Internet infrastructure without some minimum standards. The business representatives in the panel were well familiar with the global standardisation bodies and procedures, but considered English language as a significant barrier to participation. Also, it was noted that in some specific cases nationally defined standards or guidelines would be more relevant.

We at ISOC firmly believe that global and open Internet standards are building blocks that enable interoperability, compatibility, and consistency across markets. And overall, our panellists also agreed on the importance of standards in relation to the Internet of Things and the wider Internet environment. However, a number of open questions remain: Which parts of the increasingly complex Internet eco-system should be standardised? And what would be the ideal division of labour between national and global standards bodies?

The Internet Society published an overview paper analysing the issues and challenges related to the Internet of Things in October 2015. This paper is now also available in Russian.

You can view the Internet Society’s paper on the Internet of Things at:

In English: http://dev.internetsociety.org/doc/iot-overview
In Russian: http://dev.internetsociety.org/ru/doc/интернет-вещей-краткий-обзор

You can also visit our Internet of Things page at https://dev.internetsociety.org/iot/ for more information.

Categories
Growing the Internet Technology

Unleashing Opportunities in the Kyrgyz Republic

Last week the European Regional Bureau of the Internet Society (ISOC) co-organised a roundtable discussion on the Kyrgyz Internet landscape together with the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISI). Following our successful Internet Symposium last December in Bishkek, the ISOC team was full of enthusiasm to explore further the opportunities brought on by the Internet in the Kyrgyz Republic.[1]

The goal of the roundtable was to understand the country’s Internet environment and to share global insights. The discussion focused on Internet infrastructure and ecosystem, touching both local and international connectivity. Colleagues Michael Kende and Jane Coffin set the scene with presentations emphasising the importance of local content and Internet Exchange Points.

Looking beyond the Internet infrastructure, I wanted to highlight some of the overriding factors that I believe will help the Kyrgyz stakeholders realise the Internet opportunity in the long run:

Entrepreneurship. During our visit, it became clear that many Kyrgyz companies have already jumped on the Internet opportunity. There is a wide choice of Internet service providers in the capital city, Bishkek, providing a basis for a dynamic Internet economy. The available bandwidth has in its part helped create a significant number of local technology companies ranging from software development and content hosting to outsourcing. However, to make the Internet truly a national asset, the next step would be to expand to rural and remote areas. The Internet is for everyone!

The youth. Our stay in Bishkek coincided with the bi-annual Kyrgyz IT Forum, the largest IT event in the country. The Kyrgyz IT Forum is organised by a well-known local NGO, the Civil Initiative on Internet Policy, and attracts a wide variety of Internet stakeholders. The forum reached some 3,000 online registrations, and on the day, the venue was heaving with young IT professionals, marketing folk and students. The opening speech by the then acting Prime Minister Otorbaev was followed by sessions on topical issues and there were no free seats for latecomers. The future of the Internet looks promising in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Participation. Throughout our visit, it was striking that most stakeholders were open to exchange views and ideas despite language and cultural differences. Local businesses see the Internet as a means to reach regional and global markets and push for progress to accelerate the Internet economy. The government participates in the discussions, at the highest level, and can add value by acting as a facilitator. The civil society and international organisations provide much-needed expertise and resources. Curiosity and willingness to learn are vital for a meaningful debate.

Update: The Internet Society has since published a study on the Kyrgyz Internet environment.


[1] Editorial note: The “Kyrgyz Republic” is the formal name of the country that is also known as “Kyrgyzstan”.

Photo credit: Matthias Buehler on Flickr