By Efrain Foglia – orignally posted on the Community Knowledge Transfer blog
The value of improving connectivity in rural & deprived areas
The possibility of interconnection with other places by means of digital networks may promote the social, cultural and political development of small, rural or disadvantaged areas. These telecommunication networks allow for immediate access to other locations’ knowledge involving without the need to actually be there with them. They favor the exchange of goods, services, and above all, common resources for people and communities. It has never been so inexpensive to connect people, and to experience the flexibility mobile networks provide.
There are two main types of networks: those developed by global telecommunications companies such as At&t, BT, Telefonica and Deutche Telecom. These are some of the richest and most powerful companies in the world and they are completely business-focused. The second type are the open networks built by the citizens themselves. They first appeared in the 21st century, boosted by the low costs involved in the connection of two locations by means of the radio-electric spectrum. Although smaller than global telecom companies, they have the advantage that they can be adapted to meet the needs of any given population. The sharing of resources among disadvantaged areas is the cornerstone of this type of network. Open technological protocols such as free software and licenses make this possible. By not being business-oriented, these networks try to provide a solution to the technology gap left by larger corporations.
One of the free networks well known because of its growth is guifi.net in Catalonia.
guifi.net is a network of open, free, and neutral telecommunications based on an agreement of interconnectivity in which each participant (known as a node) extends the network and receives internet access in return. guifi.net works as a collaborative research, development and innovation platform which promotes and fosters the creation of wireless networks and open infrastructures of communication, and it is one of the largest user-created wireless infrastructures in the world.
The project was born in the area of Osona (Barcelona) in 2004 and today the network enjoys a presence in a large part of the Catalan territory, as well as in different zones of the Iberian territory and in the Sahara desert. The initiative is also involved in projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, among other regions. Currently, more than 15,000 operative nodes have been implemented making a total of 26,434.2 kilometers of links built by citizens in collaboration with public and private entities.
The guifi.net community specialises in cutting edge technologies such as wireless networks and more recently fibre optics, allowing the creation of digital networks at a low cost and a high benefit to the citizens. guifi.net is a member of CATNIX ,the point for exchange of data in the Catalan territory, and is legally authorized to operate as an internet service provider.
more info: guifi
Why should communities own their broadband networks?
- They can provide a solution to the technology gap
- It can stimulate economic and educational development of the area
- They act to reinforce resources among different areas
- It allows for the possibility of designing customized networks
- Activation of crowdfunding systems both on a local and global basis
Mobile Node, an experimental system based on the free network concept
The Mobile Node is one of the several projects promoted by guifi.net, which aim to develop new uses for citizens’ networks. It tries to face the difficulties of using the public space in a more symmetric manner. The Mobile Node is being financed by the crowdfunding platform called Goteo and we are currently searching for micro-financing which may enable us to obtain the resources needed to carry on with the project. There are now 90 financing sources which have made contributions from 5€ to 60€. This project will receive financial help until 21st January, so if you want to make a contribution you are still in time.
more info: Mobile Node Project
About Efraín Foglia
Efraín Foglia is a designer of interactive media, currently researching the relationship between creative practice and the evolution of digital networks and their social and political implications. He is a member of guifi.net and exo.cat , two platforms that develop open and self-managed digital networks.