Experiences, challenges and lessons from rolling out a rural WiFi mesh network
Tucker, William David
Bidwell, Nicola J.
Siya, Masbulele Jay
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The DEV community knows that technology interventions involve consideration of social and environmental factors as much as technical ones. This is particularly true for the introduction of communications infrastructure in rural im- poverished areas. Research into WiFi solutions has fallen o as ubiquitous mobile solutions penetrate even the deepest rural communities worldwide. This paper argues that mo- bile penetration su ers from two signi cant problems such that the latest wave of WiFi mesh networks o ers bene- ts that traditional top-down WiFi, and mobile, networks do not. In addition, we propose ethnographic and partici- patory methods to aid the e ective rollout of mesh inverse infrastructure with and for a given community. This paper describes and then analyzes a mesh for voice rollout within a situated context. We explain how to conduct informed com- munity co-design and how to factor in local socio-political concerns that can strongly impact on the design, rollout and subsequent maintenance of community-based wireless mesh networks. While we have not yet analyzed baseline and ini- tial usage data, as the mesh rollout is still very fresh, we do have new lessons to o er the DEV community that we have learned while establishing this baseline study.