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Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Technology

Connecting “Los Nevados” on the Roof of the Andes

Beyond the Net Journal: Venezuela Chapter

Have you ever been to Los Nevados?

Reaching this tiny village, located in the Sierra Nevada National Park at 2,711 m. above sea level, can be a real adrenaline adventure. The scary and dangerous cliff road leading to the town is one of the world’s most spectacular and dangerous. The rough terrain can get very muddy and slippery after rain, making it challenging to get through.

As you can guess, not less challenging was bringing Internet access to 2,000 inhabitants living in this remote area.

The idea to develop a wireless architecture to provide Los Nevados with Internet services and reduce their isolation came to Paola Perez, a computer systems engineer and Internet Society member. At that time she was based in Merida, the capital city, 69 km away.

Paola remembers: “Initially my dream was to bring connectivity to the Canaima National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage site, but I changed my mind when I recalled my friend Yeiny, who lives in Los Nevados. She attended university in Merida, but she couldn’t return to her village on weekends because she had no Internet connection to download the contents of the exams.”

Gabriela Muñoz (left), Paola Pérez (right)

Empowering “Los Nevados” through ICTs usage for social benefit” was funded in 2016 by the Internet Society in collaboration with the Venezuela Chapter. Although it seemed impossible to overcome the technical difficulties, the project team never lost sight of their dream to connect that remote place to the rest of the world. At the end, the talented and devoted team succeeded and also won the Chapterthon – a marathon open to all LAC Chapters to achieve a common goal for the development of their region.

The fruits of persistence are now providing endless benefits to Los Nevados, who are overcoming their physical and cultural isolation.

New educational opportunities are offered to the local students through access to relevant content and remote learning. Parents with children studying away at university are now using live chat and email services to get in touch.

Farmers, who represents the majority of the population, are exchanging seeds and marketing their products. Artisans are promoting their crafts online.

Not only los Nevaderos are now enjoying the Internet connection with unlimited services but also the visitors.” Paola explains: “It’s hard to imagine because it’s a place so difficult to reach, but about 500 people per month are visiting the village. Hikers use it as a base for climbing Pico Bolivar, the highest mountain in Venezuela (4,978 m). When there was no Internet connection all payments were only in cash, and people were not aware of it until they arrived at the site. Now tourists are able to book accommodations and make online payments.”

The Civil Registry of the village can finally provide inhabitants with any digital document downloadable from public websites. It is also possible to keep records of births and deaths in digital format, sharing the data with institutions. The “Village Radio Station” is using streaming technology to share in real time the news from the world. Los Nevados also take pride of publishing stories and photos about the community to preserve their traditions. The Internet has become an essential tool for information and citizen participation.

These are only few examples of how this project is empowering the life of Los Nevados and helping to achieve SDG goals 3,4,8,9.

Do you feel like renting a burro for three hours trek to Los Nevados, getting lost in the magnificent tropical zone of the Andes? Now you can book online.

Do you have a great idea?

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Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Internet of Things (IoT)

A drone project to change humanitarian disaster response in Philippines.

Philippines is the 4th most disaster-prone country in the world. When a natural disasters hits we are completely wiped out. In remote and rural parts of the Philippines, telecommunications networks can be spotty most of the times. This scenario is willing to change thanks to the Internet Society’s Philippines Chapter new project supported by Beyond the Net Funding Programme.

The aim of the project is to send UAVs — or what most of us call drones — in disaster zones to act as wireless relays and data aggregators. The drones would set up a local MESH network to help people to get in touch with the loved ones. It would also help emergency workers to work safely and talk to one another. The project will also make possible that the drones will be able to work with Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) to find information about the situation on the ground.

In the recent years, interest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has been evidenced by innovations in this emerging field. Hobbyists and scientists alike have leveled up the use of UAVs in many ways such as forestry surveys, remote sensing and disaster management. While much of the focus of drones to date has been on military applications and as toys, the future of drones as humanitarian tools is getting more promising by the day. Commercial industries view drones as the new logistics support mechanism for parcel delivery, they are also used by environmental bureaus for tracking river flow changes.

In a country prone to disasters like the Philippines, researchers saw the opportunity to implement drones in the field of disaster management. Over the years, the Ateneo de Manila University Innovation Center has been developing use cases for drone technology, mostly for mission-critical scenarios as decision-support platform. Dr. Nathaniel Joseph Libatique, a professor at Manila University said: “We can all do optimization on battery life, rotor design, and frame aerodynamics, but at the core of engineering for humanity is the UAV’s payload – this niche is a breeding space for innovation. Say for example, we can do a fly-by and detect victims in a collapsed building, or do cooperative flights with ground teams – we can cover the breadth of a situation while scaling up value-added systems such as location detection, risk profiling, and even internet connectivity!”

Using hybrid communications technologies and devices – Push-To-Talk (PTT) Radio, Android-based protocols, Raspberry Pi hubs, 915 MHz and 760 MHz transceivers and delay tolerant communications standards (RFC 5050) – the project team continues to demonstrate how critical information such as victim or survivor identities and needs can be robustly transmitted to command and control using bump communications, aggregation and store and forward techniques. Information analysis such as facial recognition and pre-stored information of survivor social networks, especially for the elderly and PWDs, enable an efficient and targeted response.

Flying over the municipality of San Juan, Batangas, a province 140 kilometers south of Metro Manila, the team did a series of experiments that demonstrated the role of UAVs integrating connectivity, highlighting cooperation and underscoring collaboration. In a disaster situation, responders use various radio communication media and this presents an opportunity to interface drones with these devices. Systems incorporating ground vehicles and UAVs provide the breadth and scale necessary to respond to disasters and undertake victim rescue apart from purely imagery missions. In this series of tests, the team did propagation measurements between “victims” and drones functioning as rescuer/alert vehicle. The UAV was flown above the antenna setup subject to the applicable civil aviation rules, utilizing the frequency (760 MHz) as approved for experimental use by the telecommunications regulator. Initial results reveal the potential of UAVs to complement ground teams in the performance of victim rescue support.

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter

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If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

How to apply Beyond the Net

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Beyond the Net Community Projects Growing the Internet

Zenzeleni – Do it Yourself! – How a rural community in South Africa became a telecommunication operator.

Mankosi, in the Eastern Cape Province, is one of South Africa’s most economically disadvantaged communities. Most of the 3,500 residents live on less than $2 per day. In spite of this, residents spend an average of 22 percent of their income on the ability to connect and communicate. Unfortunately, less than a quarter of residents are online in any given month. Mankosi needed an alternative to expensive, spotty service. Zenzeleni Network was set up in 2012 to provide voice service to the community, using analog phones connected to WiFi routers and Voice over IP (VoIP) technology.

Now, the Internet Society’s South Africa Gauteng Chapter and the University of Western Cape, supported by ISOC’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme, are assisting Zenzeleni Networks to upgrade the system in order to create a powerful and stable network, helping to get more people online. The programme also will provide computer labs in Mankosi’s primary and secondary schools and computer literacy training for teachers. The goal is to get people online for a fraction of what it currently costs to connect, and turn Zenzeleni into a model for community-owned telecommunications companies. On March 2017, Zenzeleni Networks was selected as a semifinalist of the Mozilla’s Equal Rating competition, recognizing the potential of  this amazing “community network” as a viable alternate way to communicate.

Carlos Rey-Moreno, senior researcher at the University of the Western Cape and project manager, talks about his experience in this fascinating project:

“If I had to explain what I do, I would say that I’m a telecommunications activist. I try to bring forward the voice of those that are underserved by communications operators and communications ecosystems. I came to rural areas of South Africa about five years ago, and I tried to understand the way people here communicate and how they communicate. When I first got here, I did quite a lot research on how much money people spend on communications, and how they communicate. One of the things I found was that people here still spend a lot of money on telephone calls. In rural South Africa, families are very disrupted because people have to migrate, particularly the men in the family. They go off to work in the mines and the large farms near Cape Town, and their families want to be in touch. As a result, households are spending, on average, 22 percent of their disposable income on communications. Community networks like Zenzeleni are crucial to cut these costs.

Zenzeleni is a partnership between the University of the Western Cape, where I’m a post-doctoral fellow, and Mankosi, the community I work in. Everything we do is based on what the people in Mankosi want to do. We have a cooperative board that sets the agenda.

Initially, we were focused on VoIP calling. That seemed to be the most logical way to help bring down people’s communication costs. It didn’t require a lot of bandwidth, and it fit under the existing regulatory framework. So, we set up a MESH potato network (Steve Song is the creator of MESH potato and you can find a link here to Steve and MESH potato), that allowed analog phones to work via a VoIP network. We had the tribal local authorities select some people to be in charge of the phones. They had to select 10 houses that “see” at least three other houses, and that have people who were at home to help for security reasons.

That VoIP project got a little bit of momentum behind it, but it didn’t catch on like we’d hoped. The people in those houses used the phones and some neighbors used the phones, but mostly people kept using their mobile devices. Changing the consumer dynamics of people in rural areas is very difficult. Change takes time. They like to stick to what they know works.

What did catch people’s attention, though, was the fact that the MESH potatoes were solar powered, and that those solar panels were producing excess electricity. So, people asked if we could use that power for a mobile charging station, so it suddenly cost half as much money for people to charge their phones. This changed the way people used their phones, and how much money people had left over.

Now, we’re also looking at setting up our own local mobile network using unlicensed GSM spectrum, similar to what Rhizomatica has done in Mexico. The next project for Zenzeleni is setting up backhaul to a fibre network in the nearest city. We’re making that happen with a series of wireless relay towers. The elders and leadership here in Mankosi are really eager to get a proper, reliable, affordable Internet connection. The plan is to set up computer labs in the primary and secondary schools, to have a community WiFi network that people who have WiFi enabled phones can use for free, and we’re getting some old personal computers (PCs) donated to set up access points for people who don’t have smart phones. The people that are running the cooperative are very much interested in the education of the youngsters. They are doing this to open up opportunities for the next generation.

Zenzeleni is really a community network in the truest sense of the word. Our cooperative board set the priorities, they set the rates for things like mobile charging. We just try to help them make it happen. We’ve already done some cool things here, but once we get this fibre backhaul, I think there are amazing things that are going to happen. It’s all about giving opportunities. When you give people opportunities to explore, with a little bit of money, or a little bit of bandwidth, or a little bit of spare electric energy generated by the solar systems, people do amazing stuff.”

We wondered how the Zenzeleni project would benefit ISOC’s Gauteng Chapter. This is the truly comprehensive answer of the former President, Gabriel Ramokotjo.

“The success of the project will contribute immensely to the development of the Chapter. The Chapter will grow its membership beyond the province of Gauteng in South Africa, and also will attract the interest of the Youth in the rural areas. The first phase of the project has already received positive coverage from the Media, which has led to partnerships with the University of the Western Cape and the Right 2 Know Campaign. There’s no doubt of the benefits that the Chapter will derive from the project, such as forging and strengthening collaborative partnerships with academic, civil societies, and the private sector. Even more important, the project is aligned with the goal of our Government National Development Plan: to have all South Africans connected and using the Internet by the year 2020. With the support of the Internet Society, it’s a new opportunity also to create closer collaboration with our Government on policy and technical issues affecting the Internet in our country.”

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

How to apply Beyond the Net

Find out more about the programme 

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Beyond the Net Community Projects Growing the Internet Human Rights

Internet@MySchool – a pilot project connecting Yemeni schools in Sanaa and Aden

As a country, Yemen is among the least with Internet connectivity in the Middle East. This is particularly troubling given the rise of Internet access across the globe. Furthermore, the youth in Yemen constitute the majority of the population yet are being left behind because of the lack of Internet access in schools due to poor economic conditions coupled with other priorities that supersede Internet access.

And due to the continuation of conflicts, the educational process in Yemen facing many challenges: shortages in the financial resources, the rehabilitation of partially damaged schools, and the printing of school textbooks. Currently, there are about 2 million school-age children are out of school and more than 1,600 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, hosting of IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

While schools in Yemen facing these challenges, that does not mean that Internet access should not be a high priority. On the contrary, we believe that the Internet could be a strong incentive and means of support to help students acquire knowledge and be motivated to study online and compensate for the lack of books and other study material.

Students need the Internet because it is the most effective way to share ideas and experiences and complement regular traditional education. Similarly, teachers need to be informed of the new pedagogic methods and teaching material that allows them to enhance their teaching methods and improve their curricula. Teachers can also use the Internet to exchange views with each other and formulate common ideas to present to the government. This is why Yemen Chapter strongly believe in connecting schools to the internet will have a long-term positive impact.

Thanks to Beyond the Net Funding Programme support we are implementing Internet@MySchool, a project which aims to connect to the Internet four secondary school’s senior classrooms in two cities (Sanaa, and Aden) and provide training and booklets to ensure that the Internet services the project provides are used effectively by students and teachers in those schools.

The project will select one boys school and one girls school in both cities. Those schools are going to be a pilot project, which we hope will be replicated across the country and the region.

The project team, in the last five months, has worked hard to identify the selected schools to implements the project through a selection and evaluation criteria. The team has completed the following activities:

  • Installed the Internet and network infrastructure in four schools in Sana’a and Aden.
  • Produced and printed 3000 copy of a booklet in Arabic language with illustrations will be used in the training sessions for students on the basics of internet and how to use internet as a tool for education. The booklet will be distributed to students and staff in the selected schools and could be reprinted and used in many different settings and contexts if resources are available.
  • Created a website for the project with login authorization to each of the schools to allow students and staff posting  their own experiences, photos, questions, and other contributions and for the project to promote its work. Additionally, students can communicate with their teachers and colleagues to discuss and share educational resources or materials.
  • Created Social media accounts such as facebook page for disseminating project activities among public audience.
  • Video showing some activities of the project
  • Video promoting the website of the project 
  • Preparing for the training sessions in the next few weeks.
Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Find out more about the programme 
Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter 

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Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights IETF Internet Governance Open Internet Standards Technology

How the IETF community is shaping technology to build a better society

The continued advancement in technological landscape enabling more people having Internet access in the global arena has meant that IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) remains at the forefront of integrating technology with humanity. In fact, IETF has made significant use of social dimension to articulate its area of work and research. It is beautifully reflected in section 4.1 of the RFC 3935 wherein it states that “We want the Internet to be useful for communities that share our commitment to openness and fairness.  We embrace technical concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the core values of the IETF community”. This focus of inclusion remains at forefront of integration of IETF with human dimension of technology. The standards created in IETF are testimony to technical developments and enables innovation by providing a platform for the innovation and interoperability.

Indian IETF Capacity Building (IICB) Program Phase II has received Beyond the Net Support from Internet Society and focuses on creating technical capacity development for increased participation and contribution of technical standards on Internet from India. The program aligns itself with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals such of economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

The IICB program was conceived as a traditional program which is hierarchical in nature, meaning it has fixed KPIs rolling up-to objectives and further upward roll up to mission and vision. However, in reality, the program has taken a shift and has focused on creating communities as well which decides their own course of action. This was a marked shift as it required adjustments in the delivery of the program and larger emphasis on adoption. As individuals are important in IETF process, it asked from the program implementers to develop a greater understanding of the role of individual who is going to contribute in the IETF process, the collective beliefs one possesses, the world views on standards and standardization, the priorities of making a contribution as well as loyalties as time has to be taken out from different parts of day, personal and professional space for inching into this community.

Hence, the awareness sessions being carried out in the program focused on human concerns in the technical standard development process in IETF like. The workshops focused on societal benefits of collaborative work happening in IETF and remote participation was not hearing the speakers over Internet, but was a presence across the seas and directly learning from the activities therein.

A significant milestone for IICB program was in late 2016 when a community of technical researchers and academicians based out of 150 KMs from main city of Kolkata, at a place called Mallabhum wherein we had done our awareness sessions and workshops, proposed us their own plans of execution and the task at hand was now just to enable them. Since then they are moving out to do IETF awareness sessions, remotely logging on to IETF sessions, have created smaller sub groups to focus on specific areas of technology and following the debate in IETF mailing lists. Emboldened, one of the key movers is working to get his visa for his first physical participation in IETF in Chicago.

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

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Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Barev dzez! You are listening to Radio MENQ. The voice of the visually impaired of Armenia.

Beyond the Net Journal: Armenia Chapter #3 Episode

When Armenia declared independence in 1991, the Internet access finally became available, allowing people to be part of the world again. The creation of an Internet Availability Center in 2012 (funded by Internet Society’s grant) at the Culture House for the Blind in Yerevan, triggered creative ideas among active members of the center.

They came to conclusion that an Internet radio station would be the greatest opportunity for helping the blind and visually impaired. The project started in January 2016 supported by the Internet Society’s Beyond the Net Funding Programme”. Today, it is a dream come true.

Radio MENQ (“We” in Armenian language) has become a platform empowering people with disabilities. The programming covers practical and psychological matters. Many artists and scientists with disabilities have been invited as guests to share their lived experiences. This radio station is opening up new horizons for the visually impaired and their families.

The project team is comprised of people with disabilities of various specialties. All of them are proficient in their areas and highly motivated in bringing change to people’s lives. Radio MENQ is contributing to the cultural and spiritual development of its audience through psychological advice, reading of prose and fairy tales for children, gaming competitions, and hours of music.

Just taking a look at some of the programs currently on air illustrates the important role this station plays:

  • “You can” – 13 episodes about people who are blind, from ancient to modern times, who demonstrated notable achievements, like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli, Diana Gurtskaya, Louis Braille
  • “Internet and the blind” – Opportunities and how to use them
  • “Psychology in life” – How to use internal resources to achieve goals
  • “Toward Independence” – Ways to improve self-dependence
  • “Problem and solution” – What role can visually-impaired people play in the society. The role of family and education in the process of socialization. How to overcome psychological barriers when searching for a job.
  • “Rights and privileges” – About legislative solutions for blind people
  •  “Loving a person” – How to destroy barriers in relationships
  •  “My Universities” – How to get a higher education and find a job
  • “Sports and We” –  Brilliant victories in Paralympics sports
  • “Learn to play Chess” – Lessons from the blind master Yura Awetisyan

Radio MENQ has been promoted through mass media, social networks and public events with the involvement of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia Republic. We are proud to say that the blog is getting up to 2,800 visits monthly, and a mobile application to reach a wider audience is in the pipeline.

In Armenia, the estimated number of blind and visually impaired people is 25,000 and in Diaspora 50,000. While the team was discussing ways to expand the project to Diaspora communities, they received this message from United States: “Barev dzez! My name is Laurel and I am a blind student studying at the University of Oklahoma. My instructor is Armenian, and I got inspired to learn Armenian as well. I found your radio station online. I love listening to your programs, and I use it to help teach myself Armenian. When I discovered how hard it was to read with a screen reader in Armenian, I thought why not do something. I am actually working on creating a project that could help blind people in Armenia, Georgia and Russia through technology and educational opportunities. I would really like to connect with the blind community in Armenia, and I plan to visit Yerevan in September.”

The famous blind pianist Levon Karapetyan, who used to move around with helpers, is another inspiring story. While he was in France for a study period he listened to Radio MENQ’s “Toward Independence” and he got very interested in self-development tools mentioned in the program. When he came back to Armenia he visited the station and asked the team to teach him how to use the white cane and other tips to move independently. The mobility training changed his life for the better. A special episode devoted to his experience will be broadcast in the future.

In addition to being a public health concern, blindness also has a great impact on the social and economic wellbeing of an individual. First efforts to educate the blind were attempted at the beginning of the 19th century thanks to the Louis Braille system. Until that time, blind people were considered mostly uneducable and untrainable. One of the worst stereotypes about blindness is the belief of that it limits to the kind of jobs you can do. Blind children acquire this sad way of thinking from society.

The radio station aims to raise awareness about how an appropriate environment can increase the ability of a person with disabilities to work independently and add value to society. After Radio MENQ went on air, many young people have started to learning how to be program presenters and sound technicians. The Armenian blind community is starting to break the stereotypes and prove they are able to work on equal footing.

This project is illustrating the power of the Internet in creating innovation and local solutions with global impact. Radio MENQ is becoming a reference for visually impaired people, also facilitating the collaboration and partnerships needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch the video and see the amazing job they are doing

Listen to Radio MENQ

This project is relevant to achieving the following SDGs goals:

More projects for the visually impaired:


Stay tuned for the upcoming blog and follow our stories on Twitter.

Share this story

If you like this story, please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

We are interested in your project

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30.000 USD.

Applications are open until 23th March
Find out more about the programme 

Categories
Community Networks Growing the Internet Technology

Build The Internet: Training Barefoot Network Engineers

India is an interesting country when it comes to Internet access.

On the one hand, India has the second most Internet subscribers in the world. There are over 450 million people online here. On the other hand, we also have the largest number of unconnected people. Only about 35 percent of our population is online, including more than 70 percent of women. Between 70 and 80 percent of our landmass isn’t connected, including most rural parts of the country. So we have a severe problem when it comes to connectivity.

I helped found the Digital Empowerment Foundation about 20 years ago, with the aim of fixing these connectivity problems. Our goal is to overcome information poverty and make the Internet accessible to the remotest part of the country, for the poorest of the poor.

One of the core problems is a lack of last mile infrastructure. The “last mile” refers to the final leg of the network, the one that delivers the Internet to people’s homes and businesses. Telecom companies here have been reluctant to invest in the last mile in rural areas because it doesn’t make sense for them as an investment. They say the cost is higher than the return. That’s often where we come in.

There are certain bands of wireless spectrum that are unlicensed, which means anyone can use them for community networks. By using unlicensed spectrum, we’ve managed to bring the Internet into telecom dark areas. If you build a tall enough relay tower, you can easily get a line of sight that will allow the signal to carry for up to 40 kilometres. And you can set up a series of these towers. That’s how we build networks. We started in 2010 when we first started partnering with ISOC. It began with a pilot program in a handful of communities. Now, we’re in over 100 communities, and we’re still growing.

What’s amazing, though, is how the network gets built and maintained. Over the years, we’ve trained hundreds of people to become what we call barefoot network engineers. These are regular people in rural villages, often without much formal education, who we train to be network engineers. With ISOC’s help, we’ve developed a multi-lingual kit and guidebook that explains the technology and equipment at a literacy level that works for them. So local people can maintain and troubleshoot the network themselves. And this is tremendously empowering, not only for the individuals we train but for the whole community.

The access itself gives people a tremendous sense of liberty. Suddenly, they can access government programs, which used to be controlled by middlemen. They can run their own business. They can buy things at better prices. They can access doctors through telemedicine. They can access education. Because it’s a broadband connection, they can do video conferencing, which has an enormous appeal to people who might not have high levels of literacy. Also, they use it for entertainment. That’s important, too.

The biggest achievement is that people aren’t just acting as a consumer of information, but they’re talking to each other. They’re sharing knowledge. They’re talking about their rights, about access to services, about democracy. You see it the most with the women in the community. India is still a very patriarchal society, but in our programs, women play a key role. In many of these communities, the men have to migrate to other parts of the country for work, but the women usually stay put. As a result, they’re often in charge of the community access points and the computers themselves. They’re the keepers of the information, and having that role gives them more leverage to make decisions in their households and communities.

Community networks are one of the most viable, available technology-based solutions for last-mile access to underserved communities. What we’ve been doing in India could become a prototype or a scaleable model for connectivity all over the world. But right now, it’s still seen as a novel idea, not something that could be rolled out on a large scale. Organizations like ours need to work with each other, as well as with larger organizations like ISOC, to advocate for community networks to become a global, mainstream phenomenon. Because when you connect these communities, amazing things happen. I’ve seen it first-hand.

Impressed by Osama’s story? Tell your local policy maker. Share this and the Policy Framework for an Enabling Internet Access and help make access possible. Keep watching our blog throughout the week for our Community Networking Series.

Categories
Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

Internet & Seniors. Falling in love with life again.

Beyond the Net Journal: Harlem – New York. Meeting Up With HICAP students after 6 years to recall how the Internet can change seniors lives for the better.

The Internet is able to keep seniors engaged in a variety of ways that were not imaginable a few decades ago. The Harlem Internet Computer Access Program, started in 2010 by the US New York Chapter and funded by a Community Grant, is still a shining example of how the Internet can be a great resource for seniors. The project provided Internet access and computer education to low-income, disabled senior citizens. HICAP’s impact to the Harlem community is still palpable. All participants, who attended to 80% of their classes and passed competency tests, now have computers and Internet access in their homes.

Merle Bush, the passionate computer instructor of HICAP, is firmly convicted about the need for seniors to be connected. Events like the death of a spouse or a medical recovery increase feelings of loneliness and depression. When living at home alone, life becomes smaller and options for socialization decrease. “Some people believe that when they become seniors, that’s the end of the line. ” Merle says. “The Internet is as good for them as it’s good for me, to see what’s going on in the world and to connect with friends and relatives”.

Merle takes pride opening up a whole new world of possibilities to people who may otherwise miss opportunities “Medicare, social benefits, paperwork, on line shopping, social media… these are all great things that seniors can do with what they learnt” she explains, “but this project has been more than imparting knowledge, we all gained lifelong relationships.”

The impact this project has made on seniors is unbelievable. An example is Ms. Barbara Stephens, who lives on the fourth floor and has a prosthetic foot. For a period of six weeks, the building’s elevator was being expanded for wheelchair access. So it was supposed to be wise suspending classes until the date of completion. All the tenants were offered $500 toward expenses and a six week hotel stay. But the students took a vote: they all wanted to stay and forgo the cash to attend class. They did not miss one session, including Ms. Barbara Stephens. Enjoy her dance at the end of our video….

Now Merle has a full-time job, but her students, including Barbara Stephens, Mamie Perfet, Joyce Walker, The Wu Family… they all keep in touch. We attended one of their meetings to hear from their voices how the project is still affecting their lives.

Watch the Video

Special thanks to Joly MacFie, President of US New York Chapter, for his kind collaboration.

Share this story

If you like this story please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

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We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $30,000 USD.

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Categories
Growing the Internet Improving Technical Security Internet Governance Privacy

Cybersecurity and Access – Top Two Policy Concerns in Asia-Pacific

Findings from the recently released third annual Internet Society Survey on Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific indicate that Internet access and cybersecurity are the top two concerns for survey respondents. Cybersecurity, in particular, was seen as an area that needs most urgent attention by policymakers.

The survey polled almost 2,000 end-users from across the Asia-Pacific region on their attitudes towards current Internet policy issues.

One encouraging indication from the survey results is that connectivity looks to be improving significantly in the region – 70% stated that they had experienced better Internet speed and 55% saw a drop in the cost of their Internet subscription.

However, improved Internet access also means a greater need to maintain trust in the Internet and all that it enables. The elements of trust online are multi-faceted and these were reflected in the survey’s findings.  A large proportion of the respondents cited data protection as crucial for building confidence in the Internet.  More than half also felt that consumer protection, transparency, and the ability to communicate confidentially were more important than content, service, technology and applications.

Access and Trust issues are focus areas for the Internet Society, and the survey results reinforce the importance of both these issues. Bringing the unconnected online and ensuring the Internet remains a trusted medium for users are key for the Internet’s continued success.

Read the full Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Policy Survey 2016 report here

Categories
Development Growing the Internet

Connecting with the Community in Tajikistan

The 2nd Central Asia Internet Symposium organised by the European Regional Bureau of the Internet Society took place on 2 March in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The discussion was focused on how to increase the Internet penetration in Tajikistan from the current level of just under 20%[1].

A lively, at times heated debate continued between the speakers and the audience throughout the day addressing the opportunities and challenges related to connectivity and access:

Getting Connected

Given that Tajikistan is a land-locked country, international connectivity is key to reduce price and improve quality. International organisations such as the World Bank group and the European Commission are active in Central Asia supporting regional connectivity through specific projects, namely Digital CASA and CAREN. Tajikistan was the first country in Central Asia to deploy 4G in 2012, and mobile Internet is likely to continue as the “technology of choice” due to price and difficult terrain. A representative from a local mobile operator made a poignant remark emphasising that a laissez-faire commercial approach should be the greatest accelerator of connectivity in the domestic market, but at the moment the regulatory environment can be a slowing factor.

Getting People Online

Many Tajik Internet users benefit from the available online sources and services in Russian, but local content in Tajik language is lagging far behind. However, the presentations of several speakers demonstrated the innovative mind-set of the local Internet community. One motivator is the economic opportunity. A young entrepreneur concluded that despite the sometimes challenging regulatory environment, it is still worth his while being a web entrepreneur in Tajikistan – the market is growing fast and the competition is still relatively low. Second, people look for opportunities to facilitate their everyday life. The Tajik e-government programme and bottom-up initiative called the TajikMama are good examples of socially engaging online content.

Getting Results

Many stakeholders, both international and local, make significant efforts to accelerate Internet development in Tajikistan and the wider region. While this is positive, a representative from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) asked a critical question during our session: who will do the follow-up and make it happen after this event? Indeed, the global and regional (Internet) development community can inject ideas, expertise and even funding, but this is not enough to introduce sustainable progress. The local stakeholders – government, businesses and civil society – will have to take the lead in implementing change. ISOC prides itself on bringing people together and building communities, and I believe we succeeded in doing exactly that in Dushanbe.

The presentations from the event are available here.


[1] ITU, 2015, World Telecommunications/ ICT indicators database

Categories
Growing the Internet IETF Technology

Registration Opens TOMORROW for the ISOC Briefing Panel at IETF 93

As we announced last week, we will once again hold our traditional ISOC@IETF Briefing Panel on Tuesday, 21 July in Prague alongside IETF 93. This time, the topic is Tackling Connectivity Diversity: Protocol Challenges for Constrained Radio Networks and Devices.”

Registration opens TOMORROW, Thursday, 9 July, in two batches at 09:00 UTC and 21:00 UTC for global time zone fairness. Due to high demand for limited seating, pre-registration is required to attend the Briefing Panel in person.

The Briefing Panel will also be webcast and audiocast. No registration is required. Watch this Internet Technology Matters blog or the session page for details.

Abstract

In many areas, Internet connectivity is primarily via low-end mobile devices capable of only 2G or 3G connections to cellular networks. But many application developers live and work with much faster computing platforms and networking environments. Does the infrastructure need to change to accommodate the continuing use of these devices? Is this a transient condition of uneven development, or do we need to re-architect and re-design systems to better cope with connectivity diversity?

Key transports had assumptions built on wireline networks. The next billion users won’t be on wireline networks, and even current users with access to both wireless and wireline networks use wireless networks more often. What does designing for the networks they *will* be on look like – whether at the transport layer or in the application, or at the interface between the two?

In this session during IETF 93, panelists will try to better understand the diversity of Internet connectivity and terminals, and discuss the challenges and responses to these modes of Internet connectivity including:

  • How application developers are dealing with terminal and connectivity diversity
  • Considerations for protocol developers
  • How restricted connectivity impacts user behavior
  • Design principles that could be extrapolated from the data and the technical responses to date
  • How power management and connectivity management interact

Moderator:
TBD, Internet Society

Panelists:
Ted Hardie, independent
Blake Matheny, Facebook
Henning Wiemann, Ericsson

We hope you can join us, either in person or online, for this interesting panel!

Categories
Growing the Internet IETF Technology

At IETF 93, Tackling Connectivity Diversity: Protocol Challenges for Constrained Radio Networks and Devices

Internet connectivity speeds and mobile device capabilities vary across the world, but not all application or protocol developers keep that in mind. How do we address this discrepancy? Does the infrastructure need to change? Is this a temporary condition due to uneven global development? These are some of the questions we’ll discuss during the Internet Society Briefing Panel at IETF 93, entitled: Tackling Connectivity Diversity: Protocol Challenges for Constrained Radio Networks and Devices.”The panel takes place during lunch on Tuesday, 21 July, at the Hilton Prague alongside IETF.

Abstract

In many areas, Internet connectivity is primarily via low-end mobile devices capable of only 2G or 3G connections to cellular networks. But many application developers live and work with much faster computing platforms and networking environments. Does the infrastructure need to change to accommodate the continuing use of these devices? Is this a transient condition of uneven development, or do we need to re-architect and re-design systems to better cope with connectivity diversity?

Key transports had assumptions built on wireline networks. The next billion users won’t be on wireline networks, and even current users with access to both wireless and wireline networks use wireless networks more often. What does designing for the networks they *will* be on look like – whether at the transport layer or in the application, or at the interface between the two?

In this session during IETF 93, panelists will try to better understand the diversity of Internet connectivity and terminals, and discuss the challenges and responses to these modes of Internet connectivity including:

  • How application developers are dealing with terminal and connectivity diversity
  • Considerations for protocol developers
  • How restricted connectivity impacts user behavior
  • Design principles that could be extrapolated from the data and the technical responses to date
  • How power management and connectivity management interact

Moderator:
TBD, Internet Society

Panelists:
Ted Hardie, independent
Blake Matheny, Facebook
Henning Wiemann, Ericsson

Registration & Webcast Information

Pre-registration is required to attend this briefing panel in person, and it always fills up well in advance. Registration will open next week; watch this space or the session page for more information and the registration link.

This event will also be webcast and audiocast. Pre-registration (or IETF attendance) is not required. Again, watch this space or the session page for more information.

We hope you can join us in Prague, or online!