Towards low‐cost community networks in rural communities: The impact of context using the case study of Beitbridge, Zimbabwe
Gwaka, Leon Tinashe
Tucker, William David
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Most rural communities in developing countries such as Zimbabwe are underserved and/or unserved with regard to telecommunication connectivity. Governments in developing countries are also under‐resourced to provide adequate digital infrastructure. Thus, community networks are increasingly seen as viable alternatives to bridge the infrastructure gap in Africa. However, new infrastructure interventions in developing countries face many challenges including complex interventions stemming from complex policies inserted into complex sociopolitical environments. The success of community networks in other African countries prompts this investigation into the potential of transferring the community network approach to Zimbabwe. The objective of this article is to frame how context impacts development of digital infrastructure. Zimbabwe's telecommunication regulatory framework is on the verge of countenancing the development of community networks, and for this reason, there is need for research to inform would‐be investors, policy makers, and other stakeholders such as academia, NGOs, and communities themselves, on how the sociopolitical and economic environment impact these efforts. This is important because successful deployment of a community network may result in improved community development, eg, in food security, health, and education.