BasicInternet:Sustainability of Village Connectivity

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BasicInternet:Sustainability of Village Connectivity

Title BasicInternet:Sustainability of Village Connectivity
Place skype
Date, Time 2019/11/28, 1000-1100
Contact Person Josef.Noll
Participants Catherine R. Kimambo, Albert Richard, Justina Mashiba, Josef Noll
related to Project DigI, BasicInternet
this page was created by Special:FormEdit/Meeting, and can be edited by Special:FormEdit/Meeting/BasicInternet:Sustainability of Village Connectivity
Category:Meeting


Executive Summary

UCSAF and the Digital Inclusion (DigI) project discussed topics related to connectivity of rural areas and content provision, both from a national and an international perspective. The DigI project has connected about 10 villages/schools, focusing on how digital health information (in terms of videos and animations) increases the knowledge of the local society and contribute to digital inclusion.

Specific technical issues were discussed, including how the mobile network is used to bring Internet Information Spots into the villages. Examples were the 22 km distance to the Tigo mobile towers, when connecting to the market place of Selela village in Arusha, and the connectivity over the mountainous ridge when establishing a village information spot in Izazi village in Iringa.

This page summarises the topics to be discussed, and acts as a basis for a follow-up meeting between UCSAF and DigI team members.

Topics being discussed

Both UCSAF and BasicInternet presented their ongoing work, including

  • UCSAF: having connected 25 schools together with Vodacom, and plans ready for connection of other 150 public schools. Looking also for solutions for Telemedicine.
  • BasicInternet: as part of the DigI project, has connected about 10 villages/schools, and is now concentrating on a sustainable business model.

Digital Public Goods for Tanzania

’’Topics for recommendations by the UN high level panel on Digital Cooperation ‘’

Based on the DigI results, we submitted inputs to the United Nations High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. The Panel, led my Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, presented the report The Age of Digital Interdependence, Report of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, https://digitalcooperation.org, in Jun2019 - The report contains a set of recommendations, notably:

  • 1A: We recommend that by 2030, every adult should have affordable access to digital networks, as well as digitally-enabled financial and health services, as means to make a substantial contribution to achieving the SDGs…
  • 1B: We recommend that a broad, multi-stakeholder alliance, involving the UN, create a platform for sharing digital public goods, ….
  • The report further mentioned the work of the DigI project in Tanzania b) Chapter 2 page 12, pointing to reference 59 and the full reference: "One example of building internet access around community needs, in this case health, is a collaboration between the Basic Internet Foundation and health facilities/schools in Tanzania; see Vision 2030, available at https://www.vision2030.no/index.php/en/visjon2030-projects/non-discriminating-access-for-digital-inclusion. The Panel has been informed that a common bid for connectivity is being prepared by ITU, UNICEF and the World Bank.

UNICEF is coordinating the work on the recommendations 1A and 1B, especially through

As a result of the DigI work, the government of Norway has asked Prof. Josef Noll to become the external expert for the connection of Recommendations 1A and 1B. Together with the DigI team, we suggested to promote on free access to Digital Public Goods (DPGs). We suggest an approach where lightweight DPGs are delivered over all networks for free, and where heavy DPGs are provided to local information spots, e.g. a server at a school. This calls for setting up regulatory framework to support this approach.

Technology issues - connectivity

Based on our technological expertise from both mobile and wireless access, we promoted the novel approach of "Internet Lite" and the "free access to Internet Lite" to everyone in the community. The suggestion has three aspects:

  1. Extending the access into areas where there is no connectivity
  2. Enabling access for those without a mobile phone or a mobile broadband connection
  3. The technology foundation for Internet Lite, asking for a set of standards for low-bandwidth Internet.

All three aspects have been piloted and demonstrated as part of the DigI project.

1) Extending the access to areas where there is no connectivity. In rural Tanzania we find predominantly 2G and partly 3G networks. Mounting a specific IP link was seen as being too costly, e.g. one operator offered us a 4Mbps line for US$ 400 + collocation US$ 240, together more than $ 640/month.
Thus, we concluded that a direct collaboration with mobile operators was most appropriate. We use mobile broadband packages, selecting the operator with the best 3G(no 4G available) networks in the area. By mounting a 6 m pole, and set a direct antenna on top of the pole, we actually achieve some 18 dB signal increase. That means, we extend the range of a 3G network from 7-9 km to 22 km, as proven for Selela. In Izazi, where the mountain ridge blocks the direct access to the 3G towers from Migoli, we achieved a good (-82 dBm) signal when using the 6 m pole.
Read more about installations at Overview over DigI villages:


2) Reaching out to those who don't have a mobile phone or a mobile subscription has been a focus from the very beginning. Our experience is that women are punished double. First, the boys have the toys, that means substantially less women have smartphones. Second, it is predominantly males who have a mobile broadband subscription. In some areas we see 30% mobile subscriptions from man, while only 1-2% of women have a mobile subscription.
We install a local network control centre (LNCC) as part of the Basic Internet Solution, allowing for free access to local content, as well as selected information pages. Our final goal is free access to Digital Public Goods, and a set of lightweight protocols for achieving the free access (see 3).
We provide the local community with some tablets, such that people without a smartphone will have free access to information. And, we expect that the value for the local community will trigger more people to get their own smartphones.

3) Free access to Digital Public Goods requires a lightweight protocol, such that web pages and DPGs can be provided for free. The accelerated mobile pages (AMP) protocol is an example of such a lightweight protocol. We are working with international actors to establish these set of protocols, and add the architecture for heavy DPGs like videos, being provided locally.

Our wish is that UCSAF will promote the Digital Public Goods, and supports the free access to DPGs.

Digital Health Information to the community

As of now, we focussed on Digital Health information to be provided to the community. Every village has a village information spot, carrying a health information site, see https://izazi.yeboo.com/health_information_dashboard.php The videos, as well as any other content on this Village Information Spot is available for everyone in the society. First results show a tremendous knowledge update for the diseases being addressed at the information spot.

For more information, please have a look at the overview presentation: File:201910 DigitalPublicGoods Visjon2030 Noll.pdf

Our wish is that UCSAF picks up the concept of village/school/health dispensary information spots and joins forces for a national initiative in providing content on these information spots.

Sustainable Operations

Our cost structure is based on standard equipment from Mikrotik and Raspberry Pi, having an a pure equipment price of about US$ 300 per information spot. The specific software, configurations, shipping, import tax and other costs end up to about US$ 1600 per information spot.

The operational costs are typically a 10 GB package per month (to start with at least), being typically TZS 35,0000/ per month. However, having a similar operation in Norway, we get contracts with operators for 5-10 SIM cards and a general interface to manage the subscriptions. Such an operation is envisaged for Tanzania, and would reduce the costs per installation to about TZS 20,000/ per month.

In addition, the remote management would allow for "voucher sales" of e.g. 1, 4, or 24 h access, and thus encourage other usage. Finally, we see that the village information spot is the base for local entrepreneurship in the village.

Open issues and other topics

  • Regarding Telemedicine, we need to subdivide between low-bandwidth (lite) and heavy bandwidth-demanding services like video. Video needs a certain Quality of Service (QoS) is required when it comes to voice and video transmission. As the solution provided by the Basic Internet Foundation works in collaboration with the mobile network operators, the QoS depends on the delivered mobile network capacity. We have achieved 20 Mbit/s in Izazi, though having "no reception" (-103 dBm) with a handheld device. Though, when the network got congested, the quality of the download speed dropped drastically. Furthermore, the 3G network is extremely weak on uplink (typically some 70-200 kbit/s), which does not support Telemedicine in a sufficient quality.

In short,

  • we connected villages which were “impossible to connect” Izazi and Selela, where we extended the 3G network from typically 7-9 km to 22 km (Selela), or reached to a village behind a mountain ridge (Izazi).
  • we established an [[BasicInternet:Solutions#Cost_examples|infrastructure costing about € 1000] (approx TZS 2,500,000/) for the equipment and the configuration.
  • we achieved tremendous positive feedback from the society. Does not matter where, we were welcome and got all the support we wanted. ‘’Everyone recognised the value of free access to information’’.
  • We have already three communities (African Child, Bayama Orphanage and Community Services (BOACSE), Usevya Development Society (UDESO)) who picked up the ideas for connectivity, and established rural information spots.
  • The mobile operators (Tigo and Vodacom) were very helpful in offering fair deals for the pilots, and involved us in their plans.
  • Through the "Digital Inclusion" (DigI) project we reached tremendous interests, resulting in both academic presentations, but also invitations to ITU, the African Innovation Week, and other international events. See DigI Publications
  • See List of Publications and other DigI Achievements

Conclusions and Way ahead

We concluded on the common interest in rural connectivity, and a potential interest in making information available as Digital Public Goods. Based on the input of this page, UCSAF will comment and ask for further clarifications.

As a follow-up, a meeting in Dodoma is planned with participation from Felix Sukums and Catherine Kimambo.