Stakeholder engagement and participation were visible at the Kenya National School of Community Networks, bringing together various organisations supporting the community networks movement.
1. KICTANet has been supporting the movement in Africa through its Africa Regional and Africa Policy Coordinators. At the school, KICTANet hosted three sessions;
- Financial mechanisms for community networks -Catherine Kyalo, the Africa Regional Coordinator for community networks at KICTANet, explained the different maturity levels of community networks and funding models available to them at the various stages (grants, subsidies, equity, debt, and blended financing). The session was a summary of the ” Financial Mechanisms for Locally Owned Internet Infrastructure”, a paper prepared by Connect Humanity with contributions from APC.
- Policy and regulatory framework for community networks – Josephine Miliza, the Africa Regional Policy Coordinator at KICTANet, explained the requirements for applying for the Community Network Service Provider License (CNSPL) and the urgent need for the license as a consideration for support from the USF. Requirements for the CNSPL application include a sustainability plan and two letters from the local leadership.
- Digital Enquirer Kit (DEK) – Neema Mujesia of KICTANet presented a guide on the Digital Enquirer Kit – an e-learning module prepared by KICTANet in partnership with GIZ and the University of West Indies. The kit broadly tackles the concepts of gender and sexual orientation and aims to help users of digital technologies towards making global information space a safer, more incredible, and inclusive place.
2. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC).
In collaboration with Rhizomatica, APC initiated the national schools as a collective capacity-building and strengthening effort for the creation, development, and consolidation of community networks as a way to cultivate bottom-up, sustainable approaches to communication and meaningful connectivity.
3. Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
Representatives from the Universal Service Fund (USF) expressed the continued interest of the CA in supporting access to connectivity in unserved and underserved areas through both capital and operating expenditure grants to 100 community networks. In their draft USF Strategic Plan 2022-2022, the regulator has pledged to facilitate the establishment of a Community Network in each county of the underserved communities.
4. United Kingdom Digital Access Program (UKAid DAP)
Mr Charles Juma emphasized that regulations will always follow the solution, not the other way around. He asserted the need for community networks to identify how they can address the digital gap currently not being addressed by commercial telecommunications operators and leverage these community models towards civic engagement, e-commerce opportunities, education, online jobs, and agriculture.
5. Internet Society Kenya Chapter
Alphonse Odhiambo, Vice President of the Internet Society Kenya Chapter, quoted, “We as internet society Kenya Chapter, our vision is to build and strengthen community networks through infrastructure and capacity building. We look forward to supporting more community networks to connect the unconnected segment of our communities.
5. Strathmore University
Mr Leonard Mabele addressed the opportunities in Dynamic Spectrum Access towards connecting the unconnected, unlocking more digital innovation through the Internet of things (IoT), and enhancing rural broadband access. He spoke of TV White Space (TVWS) technology as a game changer for community networks and reiterated popular sentiments at the school on community networks being best positioned to create access to learning content, facilitating digital entrepreneurship, incubation, and promoting innovations.
The African Women’s Development and Communications Network is a Pan-African Feminist and membership-based network. The network ensures that the voices of African women are amplified and that their needs and aspirations are prioritized in key policy dialogues and outcomes. FemNET addressed the need for equitable participation of women in grassroots initiatives.
Patricia Musomba addressed the opportunity available to community networks to forge partnerships to further digital security discussions at the grassroots levels.
8. Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) is a community development and design non-profit organization that partners with under-resourced communities to advance equity and activate the unrealized potential in their communities. They have partnered with TunapandaNet in the Kibera in implementing the Living Data Hubs (LDH)—a joint project between KDI, TunapandaNet, and the Civic Data Design Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — partners with residents of informal settlements to co-create community-based WiFi hot-spots.
9. Aspire Africa.
Mr Thomas Wanzallah indicated they are working to make government websites accessible to persons with disabilities and spoke of the importance of building partnerships and inclusivity within community networks.
Other stakeholders in attendance included: Paradigm Initiative, Access Now and Article 19.
This is a series of our publications on Community Networks.
Ms Catherine Kyalo is the KICTANet Africa Regional Coordinator for Community Networks under the APC-LOCNET initiative. She is passionate about community welfare and enjoys yoga to rejuvenate. LinkedIn | Twitter