ASSAf publishes report on Building Profitable and Sustainable Community Owned Connectivity Networks
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) published a proceedings report on Building Profitable and Sustainable Community Owned Connectivity Networks following the Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) seminar that was held on 31 August 2020.
The 2019 White Paper on science, technology and innovation (STI) recognises the pivotal enabling role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in realising an inclusive and prosperous information society and knowledge economy. One of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)’s key role is to catalyse the digital ecosystem and develop scalable models for community owned connectivity networks to replicate in other areas.
Rural areas provide a challenging environment to implement communication infrastructure for data and Internet based services, including high cost of network implementation and lack of customer base, low-income streams, highly scattered and low population density.
The DSI has thus partnered with the University of Western Cape (UWC), the Mankosi Village community, with support from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to scaleup the Zenzeleni Community Owned Connectivity Networks (COCN). The Zenzeleni COCN has been in existence since 2012 and provides timely, reliable and affordable Wi-Fi connectivity to the remote rural areas of Mankosi and Zithulele in Mthatha. The webinar, facilitated by Ms Ellen Fischat from Story Room aimed to look at how rural and township wireless connectivity models, including Zenzeleni COCN can be scaled-up to increase the number of people connected in the rural settings, more so in light of the COVID-19 crisis. It is evident from the proceedings that community networks provide access to connectivity and also more importantly, what connectivity enables. Subsequent discussions would need to focus on the users and owners of these community networks to understand how their lives have improved through the deployment of the technology.