Rhizomatica had the good fortune to attend the recent World Telecommunication Development Conference in Dubai and continue our collaborative efforts with the Mexican government to find innovative solutions for how to connect rural and remote populations. We have been working on the proposal that became Recommendation 19 of the ITU-D on Telecommunications for rural and remote areas for some months now, shepherding it through the various committees and region levels. Now that it has finally passed, I’d like to explain a bit more about it, and how it can be useful.
The purpose of the recommendation is to recognize the lack of robust policies to connect rural and remote populations, and try to crystallize some of the positive experiences from around the world that use emerging technologies to provide broadband and other telecommuncations to decrease costs, increase range and capacity and that make connecting rural areas a feasible option.
I would like to highlight two aspects that the resolution deals with, amongst many. First, the use of new spectrum access approaches that recognize that rural and remote areas have huge amounts of unused spectrum available. However, there are many regulatory bottlenecks to overcome for locals to be able to run their own services.
Second, telecommunication/ICT services and applications can be provided by small and medium enterprises, local governments, non-governmental organizations using appropriate business models and the need to develop local technical expertise and adoption capacity to operate such services as well as maintenance and operation programs in order to keep the infrastructure and associated equipment in good working condition.
For us, these two aspects are the root cause of why so many places on earth are not connected: none of the traditional providers see the benefit and those who want the service (local people, their governments and organizations) are many times blocked from even trying to get something off the ground by a lack of access to spectrum, training, and so on. At least now we have made a small step towards gaining recognition at the international level for initiatives like ours. And the best part is that wherever you are, your country has already adopted this recommendation!
You can read the full text of the Recommendation online on the ITU website.
Rhizomatica's policy coordinator Erick Huerta speaking at the ITU
In other news, we are finally back to full steam at the technological level. We did our first installation in Talea over a year ago with a particular technology (both hardware and software) that we found couldn’t keep up with the demands of the hundreds of users in the town. With this technology we never reached a point where both we and the community were happy with the quality of service. So starting at the end of 2013 we switched to a new provider and open-source software that has proven much more stable and better fulfills our requirements. This has meant porting all of our administration software from one platform to another and then testing it for months to make sure it works properly. Since we are a very small team, this process has been somewhat slow and has held back other activities. Nevertheless, both we and the town are quite please with how things are working now and we will resume Rising Voices-related activities with Dizha Kieru in June.