Community Networks Pivotal to Connecting Africa, Says Internet Society

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At the moment, more than 450 million Africa natives are connected to the internet. However, these numbers are not impressive by any means as 60 per cent of the population remains offline. This gap can be addressed by staging several campaigns, which is what Community Networks purposes to do.

According to Internet Society, Community Networks, which also serves as a non-profit, has demonstrated the capacity to offer sustainable solutions in tackling the aforementioned gaps, especially in addressing connectivity setbacks in underserved areas such as rural setups across the globe. The platform has managed to identify 37 community networks initiatives in 12 African states.

Together with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Zenzeleni Networks, the Internet Society is staging the third Africa Community Networks Summit in Eastern Cape, South Africa up to September 7. The fair is promoting the creation of network growth of Community Networks, bolster collaboration between community network operators in the region and offer an opportunity for them to work with industry players including content producers, policymakers and regulators. What is more, the summit is being graced by participants from 13 countries in Africa (Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, DRC, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia), as well as other players from Spain, Germany, Argentina, India and the United States.

As mentioned, discussions will cover internet connectivity gaps, as well as how local networks can be leveraged to improve the delivery of basic services and inspire the creation of locally relevant content and services, in addition to creating policies and regulations that enable Community Networks in Africa.

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“Enabling communities to actually connect themselves is a new way of thinking,” explains Michuki Mwangi, Senior Development Manager for Africa at the Internet Society.  “Policymakers and regulators should recognize that connectivity can be instigated from a village or a town and that they can help communities to connect themselves by providing an enabling environment with innovative licensing and access to spectrum.”

“These networks not only provide affordable access in areas where operators don’t find it commercially viable to provide similar services but, by being built and operated by people from within the community, they bring many other benefits to the areas where they operate.  They are key to enabling the unconnected connect themselves in Africa,” explains Carlos-Rey Moreno, Community Access Project Coordinator for APC.

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