A Reflection on the Community Wireless Network Summit

By Paul Muchene
  Published 23 Oct 2013
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Recently I had the distinguished privilege of being invited as a panel member to the seventh International Summit for Community Wireless Networks (IS4CWN) in Berlin. TheICT4D Sector Project of Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit , which works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Developmentgraciously sponsored my trip. The four day conference drawing hobbyists, activists, community network managers and even a European Member of Parliament (MEP) :-) was held in an unusual location in Berlin which serves as a nexus for hackers, tech acolytes and crypto-anarchists who have an eternal disdain for big-brother surveillance and governments who warrantlessly pry on your privacy. This is the C-BASEand I felt so much at home in this milieu :) The conference touched on many topics some of which were overarching. However don't let the term 'Community' sway you. This is an imprecise term which was even open to vigorous debate by participants to the summit. Nonetheless, from the quaint Learning how to teach (how to build a network), the mainstream Green Technologies in Community Wireless to the contentious Solutions to Break Iran's Digital Blockade the conference offered something for everyone. Participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and ask probing questions to the panelists. And this brings me to what particularly brought me here. As a panel member in another 'mainstream' almost bordering to the hackneyed subject; Access: The Fight in Developing Countries, I elucidated the situation of Internet growth in Kenya and how significant progress has been since 2009 to connect people online especially via mobile and marine fibre. Furthermore, I expressed some ideas that can done to improve Internet penetration most notably bringing down the costs of connectivity. At a microcosm I shared the interesting story of how the iHub network grew exponentially in the last three years and how Wi-Fi came to the rescue (which it still does today!).


In spite of the noble intentions of the summit, I still think that it can be improved by having more participants from Africa attend and share theirstory. I cannot even begin to overstate the impact wireless networks have had on the continent. Its because of this transformational impact of wireless technologies that lends power to the African narrative andipso factoshould be shared in forums such as the IS4CWN. Giving our side of the story, you'll be amazed at how you'll stimulate other participants to think differently.          
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