I wrote earlier on what I do at the Basic Internet Foundation in regards to digital inclusion and SDGs, and since my colleagues and I are stepping into the third year of the project in rural areas in Tanzania, here are some main information and updates on our work. While urban Sub-Saharan area develops thanks to participation in the digital society, the rural areas are left behind, and the Basic Internet Foundation (further, Foundation) suggests establishing “Internet lite”– Free Information spots in each village.
What is the Internet lite?
Internet lite is proven technology and provides free access to text, pictures and local content, e.g. education or health videos on a local server. The business model supports the concept of a Social Solidarity Economy. One user paying for video access for 10 minutes will support 300 users for a year with free access to information.
The Norwegian-supported piloting of Internet lite is ongoing in Tanzania, and has a value proposition in reaching the remote villages. The main target is to establish domestic pilots in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, which are dedicated to spread health, and educational information locally. The pilots with available health information is the key goal for health knowledge uptake and retention, behavior change, digital literacy uptake, and crucial to solving many social challenges. In this project, we are pursuing to unlock the value of access to the Internet, by allowing free access to non-video digital content on the web and access to local video server, with plans to deploy in areas with or without the infrastructure, typically near health facilities, educational institutes, and public meeting spots.
Internet lite is the digital child of the Non-discriminating access for Digital Inclusion (DigI), is a three-year innovation project, funded by The Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Read more about the DigI project and Basic Internet Foundation at our website.
Migoli High School example and current activities
This year, we installed Internet light in the Migoli High school. The Migoli High School has 1271 pupils (Apr2019) and 35 full-time teachers. The high school is located about 3 km outside of Migoli in the Iringa district in Tanzania. Despite the near-by mobile towers, providing 3G from several operators, the school had no Internet connection.
Our Internet Lite infrastructure enables full access to text, pictures and local videos, and is thus well suited to provide the information needed to participate in the Digital Society. As we want to connect also other information spots in Migoli, we put together an extended infrastructure. The directive antenna converts the 3G network to Internet, and is brought down to our Local Network Control Centre (LNCC). The LNCC distributes the Internet Lite back to the sector antennas located a the top of a 9 m mast, ensuring the distribution across the campus as well as providing the village with Internet Lite information spots. Read more about the infrastructure at BasicInternet.no/Solutions.
This is just one example, now we are installing internet and information hotspots in Iringa. The DigI-Iringa study is now ongoing with data collection in the field, and the enumerators have recently finalized the baseline and the immediate-after assessment. This will provide us with important information related to the effect of this digital health intervention.
The data collection started April 1st , with the intervention village Migoli. Then the team moved to Izazi, and thereafter to the control villages, Kimande and Idodi. The team collecting data are rising research talents affiliated with NIMR or Muhimbilli, in Dar es Salaam. The overall impression is that people are interested in the digital health intervention and that people in the intervention villages are looking forward to using the village platform.
Currently, we are launching the village platform with a hotspots in Izazi and Migoli, and finalizing the launch of the village platform with the health messages.
Our contribution for the UN High-level Panel Report
On 10/6/2019, the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation launched its final report of recommendations where the Basic Internet Foundation, with its DigI project efforts around the word was an ideal epitome for Global Digital Inclusion and building Internet access around community needs. You can read the report here.
When the report “Age of Digital Interdependence”, on digital inclusive future, was published at the Digital Cooperation, UN Secretary-General António Guterres raised the awareness that governments, academia, and the civil sector should work together on digital inclusion and lessening the various forms of the gap. We fully support that. Our digital inclusion efforts in #SDG3 Health and #SDG4 Education got honoured by the UN High-Level Panel, and thanks to Nikolai Astrup, Minister of digitalization (Norway), Vint Cerf, (Google) and the panel members to appreciate that stakeholder collaboration and DigI project “Free access to information for all” is viable.
The Foundation machinery is fuled by the concept ‘‘Internet is a human right’’, what makes it essential to contribute for the UN High-Level Panel. Some of the recent contributions was also recommendations report derived from a roundtable discussion compiled most of the crucial players.
Call for action and partnerships
The Internet lite model can serve and is replicable to any low-income countries and area without the internet access, both in public activities in the digital space or private, through freemium model.
Digital development in the Global South is dependent on a close collaboration with local people. Any project addressing new digital technologies should take into account the local component when planning, implementing and evaluating their project. Digital feedback from the websites and apps, for example, statistic on the use, hits loading of pages, unique users and clicks should be used when evaluating the underlying content. This can provide an important ground for evaluation and for progression and improvement.
Though we have established the core network functionality in some villages in Tanzania, we need your help to provide a school and village server providing educational material to everyone on the campus, and additional funding for the equipment. If you can help please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or here on Global Voices direct message.