Zim WiFi:Project Overview

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Project Background

The Wireless Open Source and Refurbished (W.O.R) computers project, is an implementation that is seeking to provide fast and cheap Internet connectivity into schools using a mix of low cost technologies (refurbished computers, open source software), low cost wireless access (ISM 2.4 GHz frequency band) and low cost policy enablers (discounted education e-rate for Internet access).

This is a pilot project, working on the premise that any computer in a school must be necessarily connected to the Internet if the ICTs in education model is designed to enhance teachers and learners educational experiences. Whilest the physical access to ICTs is a precondition for this to happen, the solution should also be affordable in terms of costs, available in terms of consistent broadband connectivity and appropriate technologies that can deliver such a promise.

Project Location

This pilot is located in the Highfields suburb of Harare and is targeting the secondary schools in the location. Two schools Mhuriimwe Secondary School and Kwayedza Secondary School have been identified for the initial pilot roll out. If additional funds become available the project will select an additional two schools for the Internet connectivity solution.

Project Partners

Implementing partner organisations:

  • World Links – Zimbabwe

Principal collaborative partners:

  • Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe - POTRAZ
  • PowerTel
  • Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture

Technical description

The intention is to provide first mile and first inch wireless connectivity into schools. The first mile connectivity (see physical network diagram ) is a common implementation amongst all the schools as the link between the school and the base station will be delivered using the ISM frequency band.

The last inch solution however will be different for each school. For the schools without a wired Ethernet LAN, a wireless LAN using WiFi 802.11b/g standard will be deployed in the computer lab. For those with a wired LAN the wireless data internet connectivity will be provided through a Linux box (Ethernet hub) that is distributed to the networked computers.

Specific objectives

  • Use the 2.4 GHz frequency band do a link budget, and provide a point-to-point link from the base station at Southerton ZESA yard to Mhuriimwe School located 4km line-of-sight and to Kwayedza Secondary School located 5 km line-of-sight
  • Use the Cantennas (self built unidirectional Cantennas made from a jam can with a power gain of 15dbi) for reception at the location
  • Use WiFi 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g radio technology, provide a last inch, wireless LAN access point at Mhuriimwe Secondary School
  • For the wired LAN at Kwayedza Secondary school set up an Ethernet Hub as the Internet gateway
  • Set up the appropriate wireless security parameters for the connections

Next Steps (Technology Plan)

  • Determine availability of Internet connection from ZESA base station in Southerton - by ZARNET
  • Carry out site survey and link budget calculation to schools and determine equipment required - Connect Africa/World Links and ZARNET
  • Purchase wireless gear (radio routers, wireless cards), build towers and Cantennas
  • Get all partners involved including the wireless equipment vendor
  • Set up infrastructure and commission equipment