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Community Networks 10 February 2018

Building a Sustainable Community Network in Sarantaporo Greece

For over a year now we in the Sarantaporo.gr nonprofit organization have been in contact with Internet Society in meetings, over online interactions, and through in-person collaboration with people of the organization who visited our village last summer. From the beginning we saw that Internet Society is an organization which we share a lot of common elements with in terms of vision, and that its network is a natural space for our Community Network to be a part of.

In September 2017 we applied for the Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme to approach the organization more closely and pursue funding to finance our Community Network. We are very happy to announce that our proposal was successful and will be funded with $30,000 USD through 2018 and 2019. This grant arrives very timely, in a period of transformation for our Community Network.

Continuously growing since 2010 to expand from Sarantaporo to even more villages in the region, today Sarantaporo.gr Community Network has reached a point where it is no longer possible to keep growing under the previous model, which was heavily dependent on the volunteering work of the nonprofit’s core team. Local inhabitants need to step in and take responsibility of their villages’ local community network. Towards this direction we have been working very hard for the past few months to plan and start implementing a new sustainability model which will guarantee the Community Network’s quality, longevity, inclusivity, and open access for all.

The Internet Society support will help us address three main challenges, which are an integral part of our sustainability model:

  • The technical challenge. Replacing aging legacy equipment with equipment that is modern, much more effective and robust, will enable us to provide higher quality service of improved bandwidth and stability and much better experience for the end users. We have already witnessed that this results in increased interest from locals not only to use Community Network, but also to actively take part in running it.
  • The training challenge. While infrastructure and access are the basic prerequisites, training is the second pillar towards bridging the digital divide. Training extends from basic computer usage for the local inhabitants of the region to advanced networking issues for members of the Sarantaporo.gr. A number of training workshops have been planned and will be delivered in the coming period. At least 80 people from the region will be trained. Of great importance to us is the sustainability aspect: training people who will be able to train others in their village or neighbouring villages.
  • The community building challenge. Our intervention in the region has provided local communities with a modern communication infrastructure as a commons, which strengthens the community bonds with remote relatives and friends. At the same time the Community Network is a Community per se, which needs to be nurtured to sustainability. Building together our Community Network, sharing knowledge, and planning in a participative manner are the building blocks of our approach to achieve this.

A significant added value in working with Internet Society is that we are joining a global network of Community Networks. In our recent trip to Geneva to participate in the 12th Internet Global Forum 2017, we worked with Community Networks from all over the world to found the global CN Special Interest Group, which serves as a vehicle to develop, strengthen, and promote the Community Network model, draft common strategies, share experiences and expertise, and debate policy and regulatory issues.

Since the beginning of the new year 2018 we have already started our first steps in our roadmap by acquiring and deploying the first two batches of new devices. The results are promising already: more people are joining our local teams, quality of service is improving, and it seems that a significant dynamic is being built up that facilitates our next steps. In February we will visit the villages for the New Year’s “Vasilopita”, in beginning or mid March we will organize our first workshop along with other events and in April we are planning our first “guerrilla” network node deployment in the village of Tzoumerka, where we will deploy the community Internet and share our knowledge with a group of locals. We are confident this will be an exciting journey for our community!

 

Do you have a great idea? We are interested in your project! We’re looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make their community better using the Internet. Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme funds projects up to $30,000 USD.

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