Empowering Rural Tanzania

By 13 March 2019 January 13th, 2020 DigI project, Digital health, Digital inclusion, Internet access

The Basic Internet Foundation, together with it’s international DigI project team, brings free Internet access and envisages Digital Inclusion for everyone. This time, the destination was Tanzania connecting yet another unconnected villages.

On the 4th of March 2019, the team headed towards the North of Tanzania, approaching Esilalei, Selela and other villages in the Arusha region. The plan was easy: buy SIM cards from the different telecom operators, solar equipment to power-up the measurements, take our equipment to the field, find out good locations for establishing the hot-spot, and start the operation.

Reality was something different: Having left Mto wa Mbu, we figured out that the mobile network was vanishing much faster than we anticipated. So, we stopped on the way to make measures of field strength, quality, and throughput (see figure 1). The best position to make measurements was on top of the car, using both a mobile phone for field strength measurements and the real equipment for checking the quality of the Internet access.

Figure 1: Measuring Mobile Networks

Though we had tested everything both in Norway, prior to shipping, and in Dar es Salaam, after delivery, equipment did not work in the fields. A configuration bug, not enabling the antenna to connect to the 3G network at 900 MHz, made the first day of measurements a disaster.

Thus, the night and the following morning was used to reconfigure the equipment together with our experts in Spain and Norway, to finally succeed in creating the information spot using Internet Lite.

Figure 2: testing equipment in Mto wa Mbu

While part of the team re-configured, the other part of the team went out to Esilalei to install the solar power system.

Having had success both in installing the solar power, and in re-configuring the information spot, we then decided to revisit Esilalei to finish the implementation and install the information spot.

What a view after we left the main road, and headed another 20 km out into the darkness. Suddenly, we saw a light. “Was it the moon?” – No, it was the light in the dark from our information spot. And, it was the only light on the whole horizon, as far as we could see. We still had to drive for another 10 km to come to the building, where full activity took place. People unloaded water from a van, and the Ward leader and his hot-spot administrator experienced their first evening with lights.

Installing information spot was a question of 10 min. Connecting cables, directing the antenna towards the mobile network, and training the local people on how to connect to the Wifi. Finally, we established WhatsApp group for all questions and suggestions related to the information spots with Internet Lite for all.

“It was not only Internet Lite, it was the light in the darkness.” Prof. Josef Noll, Secretary General of the Basic Internet Foundation

Figure 3: Light in the Darkness, the Info-Spot at Esilalei

Figure 4: An excellent environment for the Internet Lite infrastructure

Figure 5: Explaining Internet Lite to the village leader and the local coordinator

Everyone in the team was excited to state that: “It is easy to provide at least one information spot in each village, thus creating the basis for free access to information for all. Thus we invite everyone to join us for digital inclusion and social empowerment.”

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