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Community Networks 24 June 2016

Bringing the world online. Meet the people who are making it happen.

Jane Coffin
By Jane CoffinFormer Senior Vice President, Internet Growth
David ChadwickGuest Author

There are many reasons people are not connected to the Internet. Some people can not afford the Internet – it is too expensive. For other people who live in a rural or remote locations, their geography does not allow them easy access. We want people to be able to access connectivity — to access the Internet, mobile phones, fibre networks. Basically, to connect to whatever is most useful to them.

This is why connecting the next billion people feels like such an overwhelming task.

  • How are we going to connect people in Canada’s far north, or in the mountains of Nepal?
  • How are we going to drive down costs to the point where everyone in emerging markets can get online if they want to be online?
  • How are we going to connect places where big telecoms have decided it is not cost efficient to operate? Or, where Governments seem to have forgotten to provide basic connectivity?

Community network operators have already figured out how to do many of these things.

They are connecting the hard-to-connect places. The places where people thought they could not afford basic text-messaging or Internet connectivity. The places where people want to have more control over their networks. Community networks are working all over the world, from Oaxaca, Mexico to the Himalayas.

By the people, for the people, with the people.

Community networks are networks that are runby everyday people. They are open, accessible, and affordable.

Working with people is at the core of their approach and our approach to development work.

1. We listen.

2. We make connections. When it comes to a community – people in the community are the experts. But, if they need help with more information and best practices, or talking to other experts or regulators or telecom operators, or getting more and better equipment – we help where we can to make that happen.

3. We train people. Through online courses or face-2-face workshops, we trainpeople to help connect themselves, to connect to each other, and to build the Internet in underserved communities around the world. Their way.

We need you to be a part of it.

Join us for a Community Networking Event!

The key focus of the event is on the people that help build sustainable connectivity through community networks!

On 28 June we will be hosting an online event. Peoplewill be able to log in and listen to some of the leading experts in the field of community networking.

People like:

Osama Manzar of the Digital Empowerment Foundation will talk about working together with ISOC to get the Internet to communities in rural India through the Wireless for Communities (W4C) project. Where micro-enterprises are being started and women are being empowered.

ISOC Hall of Famer Mahabir Pun will talk about his experiences getting Nepalese communities back online after the tragic earthquake there, including by carrying equipment up a mountain to build that network. He will also talk about his work training trainers for our Wireless for Communities programs.

Peter Bloom of Rhizomatica will talk about how he helped put together a DIY cell phone network for farmers in rural Oaxaca and why the community networking approach has worked well around the world.

Jane Butler and Sebastian Beuttrich are part of a team of volunteers who helped create a book called Wireless Networking in the Developing World. Volunteers wrote the book and maintain a site on how to build these sorts of networks and how they can help communities and we will learn more about training and other resources.

Mike Jensen will talk about his experience setting up a mesh network and inexpensive, lean computer networks for NGOs and communities, something he’s been doing since before the Internet existed.

Roger Baig Vinas will be talking about his work with as part of the community network technical training and development team that is connecting communities in Spain through a community “commons”-based approach.

Anyone who wants to learn more about community networks and how they can help transform a community can join in by going to at 13:00 UTC on June 28. More information is available on our membership portal.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to be profiling some of the community network operators we have worked with in the last few years.

What would you like to find out?

Let us keep building connections.

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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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