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31 May 2016

8 new projects under Internet Society’s Beyond the Net program

Ilda Simao
By Ilda SimaoFormer Chapter Grants Programme Manager, Internet Society Foundation

We’re excited to announce 8 new projects under Internet Society’s Beyond the Net program – a program designed to help your big idea to change lives using the net become a reality.

Projects are usually developed and run by our Chapters or Interest Groups – a group of volunteers on the ground who are united by location or interest.

Here’s the latest round of inspiring projects:

seDaara of Thieyetou
Senegal Chapter

The Internet is hard to come by in Thieyetou. The Senegalese village is about 30 kilometers from the nearest city and surrounded by desert. This means it’s both hard to maintain hardware and difficult to get it fixed when dust gets in the machines.

ISOC Senegal is working to change that.

By working with Senegal’s Ecole Supérieur Polytechnique, the project will turn Thieyetou’s elementary school into a digital hub for everyone. The community will get a local Ethernet network with a long range wifi hotspot. The school itself will get a low-energy, solar powered Raspberry Pi computer lab. And, finally, teachers will get access to open source software that will allow them to digitize student records. When school’s not in session, the computer lab will be open to everyone as a cyber café.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Post-Disaster Resilient Communications
Philippines Chapter

In remote and rural parts of the Philippines, telecommunications networks can be spotty at the best of times. When a natural disasters hit, they’re wiped out completely. But that is about to change thanks to ISOC Philippines’ new Unmanned Aerial Vehicles project.

The plan would see UAVs — or what most of us call drones — sent up in disaster zones to act as wireless relays and data aggregators. The drones would set up a local MESH network that would help people get in touch with loves ones. It would also help emergency workers to talk to one another.

The project also hopes to make sure the drones will able to work with Unmanned Ground Vehicles to find information about the situation on the ground. This helps emergency workers work safely and efficiently.

A Safe Internet for Kids Under 12: Prohibition is Not the Answer
Spain Aragon Chapter

We all want to make sure children can stay safe online. Unfortunately, locking kids out of the Internet doesn’t work.

Prohibition is not the answer.

This project aims to take a different approach to Internet safety. One that focuses on education, information, and building trust. It will teach children how to use the Internet in a responsible way, that both keeps them safe and teaches them not to bully other kids online.

It will also help children become passionate about the Internet. They, in turn, will be able to work with adults to build a better online world.

The program will also teach parents how to talk to their children about online issues so their kids use computers with little surveillance.

Upgrading the Zenzeleni Network
South Africa Gauteng Chapter

Mankosi, in the Eastern Cape Province, is one of South Africa’s poorest communities. Most residents live on less that $2 US per day. In spite of this, the people living there value connectivity like anyone else. Residents spend an average 22% of their income on the ability to connect and communicate. Unfortunately, even with this, less than a quarter of residents are online in any given month. Those that are keep their usage to a minimum.

Thankfully, Mankosi is getting an alternative to expensive, spotty service. The Zenzeleni Network was set up in 2012 to provide voice service to the community, using analog phones connect to WiFi routers and VOiP technology.

Now, ISOC South Africa (Gauteng) and the University of Western Cape are upgrading the system to create a powerful and stable network to help get more people online. The program will also see computer labs set up in the Mankosi’s primary and secondary school, and computer literacy training for teachers. The goal is to make it possible for people in Mankosi to get online for a fraction of what it currently costs, and turn Zenzeleni into a model for community-owned telecommunications companies.

Yemen Chapter

Due to poverty and political instability, Yemen is one of the least connected countries in the Middle East. It’s a major problem, especially in a country where over 40% of people are under 15 and at risk of being left behind in a high-tech global economy.

A new pilot program from ISOC Yemen will give students at six Yemeni high schools a chance to become part of the Internet. One boy’s school and one girl’s school from the country’s three largest cities will not only get connected, but will have the chance use the Internet in their studies. This includes everything from booklets to special guest lectures. The project will be a pilot with the goal of getting more and more young Yemenis get online.

Boosting local content to rural schools in Uganda
Uganda Chapter

Internet usage is on the rise in Uganda. As of June of last year, roughly 37% of Ugandans were online, up from an estimated 10% five years earlier.

The problem is these new users aren’t finding enough material in their language. The Internet is still overwhelmingly built for people who are Western and English speaking. ISOC Uganda has come up with a quick way to increase the amount of content in Uganda’s most commonly spoken language, Luganda, without having to reinvent the wheel. They will translate content from English Wikipedia into Luganda.

To make sure the project can last, they’ll also train Ugandan high school students to become Wikipedia editors. This will help create new content in their language, and encourage the use of Wikipedia as an educational resource.

Rural Communities Access to Information Society (RUCCESS)
Nepal Chapter

Nepal is a country with a great digital divide. While urban Nepal is getting more and more connected, there are large parts of rural Nepal where Internet access is still very hard to come by. This was made worse by the 2015 earthquake, which saw massive infrastructure damage, much of which is still waiting to be repaired.

ISOC Nepal’s Rural Communities Access to Information Society will put community access hubs in rural schools, community centers, and village development offices. It will also focus on training women how to use social media, including Facebook and Viber, to stay in touch with their sons and husbands. (In many of these communities, men go away to work, leaving women and children behind.) The hubs will pay for themselves by charging for things like printing and scanning.

Spain Catalonia Chapter

In Catalonia, Guifi.net has changed the way people get online. The free, open, neutral communications network is self-organized and operated by users. Companies, individuals, and local administrations contribute to the nodes of the network. In 2009, the network started deploying fiber optic cable to farms in rural communities.

The next step for Guifi.net is to export this model to the world. ISOC’s Catalan chapter is helping them do that. It will create materials to help people in underserved communities all over the world to create their own free, user-driven, decentralized networks.

Do you have a great idea?

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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