Wireless Africa

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Wireless Africa: Towards Sustainability Models for Community Owned Wireless and VoIP Networks

Forthcoming Events
  • 25 - 27 June 2008, Pretoria, South Africa


A Wireless Africa built on sustainable Community Networks for Rural Development


Executive Summary

Basic access to communication and information services remains an obstacle in the economic development of rural (low-density) communities. The aim is to apply the lessons learnt from FMFI and research different business models and technologies that will overcome obstacles to achieving economic sustainability. This aligns well with the aims of the IDRC, and specifically it’s “Acacia” and “Connectivity Africa” programmes.

Rural economic development is concerned with the development of business (enterprise) and employment in rural areas. It can be argued that this can be achieved by ongoing reduction in costs to the rural economy or development and exploitation of opportunities that will introduce new revenue streams into the rural economy. The goal is to limit the money flowing out of the community and increase the money flowing in. This project will focus on the role that wireless infrastructure can play in achieving this goal.

The underpinning philosophy of the Wireless Africa initiative is to develop business models that support community owned networks whereby the infrastructure is owned and/or operated locally, local networking costs contained within the community and traffic is aggregated at the community level to save through bulk purchase of bandwidth.

From FMFI to Wireless Africa

  • FMFI built wireless networks
  • Community Owned Information Networks for business and service delivery models in rural, poor communities
  • Wireless Africa seeks to deploy value added services and business models
  • Towards sustainability models for Community Owned Wireless and VoIP Networks


The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Build Wireless Africa capacity and network between organisations in different countries researching and building Community Owned Networks;
  2. To understand community environments, information and user needs of the poor; and in particular the cultural, gender and social values and priorities of these communities;
  3. To research business models for Community Owned Networks, and approaches for replication and scalability;
  4. To embrace and enhance the business models through development and implementation of open source, open hardware technologies and open access infrastructure;
  5. To identify barriers (political, economic, social, technological and environmental) to a “Wireless Africa”, and propose strategies to overcome these barriers and influence institutional frameworks, regulatory considerations, national policies and telecommunication costs.

This project will achieve these objectives through a well-managed organisation of a number of sub-projects with the various project collaborators in different African countries. Outcome Mapping will be used as a planning and monitoring tool.

Network of Researchers

IDRC http://www.idrc.ca/
Meraka Institute Co-ordination http://www.meraka.org.za
LINK Centre Wits University - policy
kwantuMedia Demand-side studies, business models
IT+46 VoIP, VoIP-in-a-Box http://www.it46.se/
wire.less.dk WISP-in-a-box http://wire.less.dk/


Wireless Africa Project "kick off" Workshop

Date: 12 - 15 May 2008

Venue: Cairo, Egypt

Wireless Africa Workshop

Date: 25 - 27 June 2008

Venue: CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa

IDRC CSIR Meraka Institute wire.less.dk IT+46 KwantuMedia

This work is being carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre(IDRC), Ottawa, Canada.