Wireless for Communities (W4C) is an award-winning programme initiated in 2010 by the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau. The W4C programme provides last mile connectivity to rural and remote areas of the Asia-Pacific using wireless technologies. The programme adopts a holistic approach to empowering communities with digital skills and tools - the wireless networks are managed by the community for the community, and relevant usage of the Internet are introduced through training. The programme started in a village in India, and has now expanded to 146 access points throughout India. In 2015, W4C in Nepal and Pakistan were launched, and rapidly expanding.
Interested in partnering with us on the W4C programme? Contact Rajnesh Singh, Regional Bureau Director for Asia-Pacific
The W4C programme aims to:
- Provide Internet connectivity by utilizing low-cost Wi-Fi-based equipment to connect and empower rural and underserved communities.
- Address the lack of content, products and services originating from rural areas, which prevents economic benefits from percolating to the bottom of the pyramid.
The programme is comprised of three main components:
- The community receives training on how to establish community wireless networks. Communities are empowered via a structured Training of Trainers programme that equips participants with the information they need to design, deploy and operate wireless networks. This helps build a pool of local experts, who in turn can train community members.
- The deployment of wireless network infrastructure in rural locations. The technology used is Wi-Fi, which is generally structured in a wireless-mesh-type configuration for redundancy and reach, providing access in and around a community (usually a village).
- Broadening Internet access and usage in existing locations by expanding Wi-Fi connectivity to surrounding areas. Community workshops to enable local Internet users to create content and services online, and learn digital literacy skills are also carried out.
The W4C programme is currently being implemented in three countries - India, Nepal and Pakistan.
The W4C programme started in India in 2010, in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation.
The programme in India was piloted in the traditional weaving village of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh. Today, W4C has established 146 access points in 38 districts of 18 states in India. The programme uses line-of-sight methods, wireless technologies, low-cost Wi-Fi equipment and unlicensed spectrum - 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz - to create community-owned and community-operated wireless networks in rural and remote locations of India to democratize Internet access and make it available to all.
Inspired by the W4C's wireless ecosystem, several initiatives have emerged, including the Wireless Women for Entrepreneurship and Empowerment initiative that promotes Internet-based social enterprises and entrepreneurship among women, as change agents for social and economic empowerment.
In India, the Wireless for Communities and Open Spectrum Summit was organized in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, bringing together policy experts and field practitioners to discuss ways that wireless technologies and unlicensed spectrum can be used to extend connectivity to India's underserved regions.
View Wireless for Communities in India's website for updates.
The W4C programme in Nepal was launched in the aftermath of the Gorkha Earthquake in April 2015, in partnership with the Nepal Wireless Networking Project, an initiative of Mahabir Pun, awardee of the Magsaysay Award and Internet Society's Jonathan B. Postel Service Award.
Wireless technologies can provide cost-effective Internet connectivity to dispersed communities located in challenging terrain like Nepal. Innovations in wireless technology and the increasing efficiency of solar energy systems combine to provide a feasible and sustainable connectivity solution in such environments.
In the first phase, the programme built wireless networks and connected 12 schools and 3 health clinics in 14 villages in Gorkha, Lamjung and Sindhupalchok districts. The community clinics have been connected to the Kathmandu Model Hospital, which provides telemedicine services to rural areas. There is plan to build the community's capacity to use the Internet for e-agriculture, e-banking, e-learning, e-health and rural innovation.
A pilot project was initiated in Chak Faiz, a rural community in Multan, Punjab province of Pakistan. The first phase of establishing connectivity was completed in December 2015. The next phase is focused on training the community on the use of the Internet to improve their livelihood and wellbeing. Replication of this model to other villages in Pakistan is also being planned.
View Wireless for Communities in Pakistan's website for updates.