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Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

How the Internet changed the Nyirarukobwa Primary School

Sarah is 11 years old and goes to school in the Nyirarukobwa Primary School, together with about 1400 other kids.

She tells me that she joined this school this year because it has a very high success rate for the National Exam. Sarah said to me, “I want to go to boarding School,” which is what will happen when she passes the exam and goes to secondary school.

She is one of the 700 plus children who joined the Nyirarukobwa School over the last 3 years (yes the number of kids just doubled!!) because of its high exam success rate.

Wonder why?

Apart from a very dynamic and forward thinking school principal and very passionate teachers, the school received a grant through the Internet Society Grants programme in 2013 to get the school connected to the Internet and to get some computers and printers to train the teachers and teach computer classes to the children.

Robert Birushyabagabo (right), a member of the teaching staff, addressing an Internet Society delegation at Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda on 11 May 2017. Birushyabagabo teaches ICT and maintains the school’s computers, which were donated by the Internet Society.

For three years the school managed to not only give computer classes to the students but the teachers also actively used the computers to prepare their classes, the exams, assignments, revisions etc.

Without printed assignments and tests the main knowledge transfer happens through the use of a massive blackboard and a lot of memorising and repeating.

Joyce Dogniez, Senior Director for Global Engagement at the Internet Society, with a teacher during a visit by an Internet Society delegation to Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda on 11 May 2017.

The school says it helped.

But with success comes challenges.  Now there is not enough space for all the children, so they split the classes in morning classes and afternoon classes and move the computers into the principals office (they needed the computer class to accommodate for classrooms).

Robert Birushyabagabo, pictured on on 11 May 2017, teaches ICT and maintains the computers at Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda. Overcrowding at the school resulted in the computer lab having to be converted to the classroom, and the computers are now in a cramped space that was formerly the headmaster’s office. The room is too small to use for teaching, so ICT lessons had to be stopped.

And sadly, as the grant funding ran out, they ran out of funding for the Internet connectivity.

Our local Chapter, the Rwanda Chapter is working with the school to identify options to restore the connectivity and plan for a sustainable long term solution.

This story of one school really shows the impact ICTs have on the quality of education, it shows that if we want to achieve the goals we set ourselves through the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure Inclusive and Quality Education (SDG4) we need to push for the use of ICTs and more particularly the use of the Internet.

This is also why broader Internet and Education policy plans are necessary.

The Internet Society launched a paper on Internet for Education in Africa last week in Kigali during the first African Regional Internet and Development Dialogue providing an overview of the impact of the Internet on education in Africa but also providing a score card for policy makers.

Together, let’s make sure that all the Sarah’s of the world get access to quality education by 2030!

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.

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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
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 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