By Nzambi Kakusu.
The discussion on the community networks case study at the Deep Learning Indaba 2019 dubbed “A Multistakeholder Approach To Access For All” had representatives from several countries: India, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The overall observation of the discussion was to tackle Rural areas’ challenge of accessibility and affordability.
The challenges identified included high internet costs in South Africa to the extent that a group had taken the matter to court in pursuit of lowering the costs. Ethiopia experiences frequent internet shutdowns with very high internet costs as a result of having one internet service provider which is state-owned.
In Nigeria however, connectivity was noted have improved resulting from competition among ISPs whereas in Kenya, the internet speeds are faster in the city area and the connection gets weaker as you move further from the urban area. India on the other hand has cheap internet and is working on upgrading to the 5G network.
The issue of lack of access in Africa can be solved by community networks through creating awareness and encouraging more networks that are community-owned. When trying to widen access, it’s important to encourage competition among ISPs, utilize Wi-Fi in terms of connection and use the multistakeholder approach to find out the point of access from the immediate leadership.
Organizations that are trying to create a community network should involve the community members in the decision-making process to enable them to understand the challenges faced by the locals and come up with solutions tailor-made for the challenges. A multistakeholder approach would be very helpful in the decision-making process in ensuring accountability, sustainability and – effectiveness. Inclusivity would translate to better implementation.
Community networks can be mobilized to do more for the community by making them accountable to one another, and providing capacity building by training the youth on the deployment of networks hence gaining knowledge and skills useful in the job market.
Nzambi Kakusu, an Intern at KICTANet, is a diploma in IT graduate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. She is passionate about community development and the use of tech to solve problems in the community.