Indian People Should Follow This Village, Building Their Own Wi-Fi For Internet Access

Dhir Acharya - Mar 31, 2019

Indian People Should Follow This Village, Building Their Own Wi-Fi For Internet Access

This village has not only got its own Internet connectivity but it has also offered people with low-priced data plans.

In a village that has a population of 6,000 people and is 60 kilometers away from the nearest city, do you think there can be convenience like in the city, such as Wi-Fi?

Probably not, right?

But Mankosi, a remote rural area in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, has managed to get their own Internet access. How?

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Mankosi village, south africa

Mankosi, South Africa

Mankosi, like many other villages in Africa, is really poor, where most homes don’t even have electricity. Instead, the people here use battery-operated devices, and they charge them, along with their phones, at the local shebeen for a fee.

Notably, the Internet data here is crazily expensive, which takes up to 22 percent of people’s monthly income, more than what they spend on food, transport, or education.

However, the village came up with a way. A few years ago, they partnered with a Western Cape University research team. The partnership aimed at experimenting a bottom-up village telco model which is cheaper for rural areas and still sustainable. And Mankoski is a good example showing how well the system works.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Mankosi village, south africa

What we’re talking about here is Zenzeleni Network project, which means “do it yourself” in the local language. This is an Internet Service Provider (ISP); however, it’s the first to be run by a local cooperative in the country. Zenzeleni sets up and maintains its own infrastructure for providing connectivity, it also sells voice and data plans.

The fact that Zenzeleni is a not-for-profit firm has made Internet services much cheaper while offering more jobs for local people.

Computer Science Professor Bill Tucker from the University of the Western Cape also worked on this project, who said that the team approached local authorities to help bring connectivity to the village, as well as supported and mentored. According to Tucker, the village will finally run the project on their own.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Mankosi village, south africa

Once received the permission, the team set up a cooperative with 10 respected local figures. Then, they designed a layout and built solar-powered network stations whose solar panels are installed around Mankosi houses. The Wi-Fi stations can cover an area of around 30 square kilometers.

With this network offering, local people can access to the Internet and even use VoIP at lower prices and the country’s average rates. Also, the national ISP licensing body has imposed tax exemption on Zenzeleni so the company can operate the network at low costs which enables cheap services.

There also points of presence (POP), where even owners of a budget phone can get Internet access. In addition, people can charge their phones at the solar-powered stations at a lower price.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Mankosi village, south africa

While South Africa’s voice calls cost around Rs 7.10 per minute, Zenzeleni’s services charges only Rs 0.95 per minute. The price for data is also between 20 and 40 times cheaper than normal.

To widen the broadband and since this is a community project, Zenzeleni won’t raise the service price. Therefore, local authorities and community leaders are responsible for how the money paid for the service would be spent, to improve local infrastructure or other benefits for everyone. For example, Tucker said the money could be used to lend residents who want to start small businesses.

But expansion is likely to be the first priority. According to Tucker, Zenzeleni Networks can expand to offer service to another 20 or 30 communities across Mankosi. That means 300,000 people will be able to use the Internet at a lower price, which will also benefit schools, farmers, hospitals, and individuals.


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