When the Internet Society, ISOC, approved the idea of hosting Africa’s First summit on Community Networks (CN), Fantsuam Foundation recognized it as an endorsement of our decade-long efforts to bridge the infrastructural connectivity deficit at rural community level. It is also interesting that Governments and private sector are also showing increasing interest in ‘connecting the unconnected’ with techniques such as balloons,  planes, limited access zero rating plans, points of free connectivity in public areas etc. Fantsuam Foundation regards this as a positive development to create an internet for the remote and unconnected poor.

Given its wide range of practitioners and their specific local needs, it is not surprising that there is no concise definition, as yet of Community Networks. It was therefore very helpful to bring together about sixteen Community Network Initiatives across Africa, for this summit. There were case studies from Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. To underscore the centrality of the communities in these efforts and the role of community leaders, Chief Chikwanta from Zambia was also in attendance.

It was exciting to meet like-minded activists who are making efforts to provide the infrastructure needed for reaching the unconnected rural population of Africa. All the case studies demonstrated grassroots, bottom-up approach of deploying innovative solutions, using available, albeit, limited resources to meet the communication needs of our host communities. For example, Fantsuam Foundation reported its approach to the menace of Boko Haram and related sectarian violence in parts of northern Nigeria that has led to severe disruption of primary and secondary educational services. This approach consists of deploying Continuing Professional Development capacity building for internally displaced teachers who have lost valuable opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge.

The integration of the Community Network to a Community Radio service as in the Zambia
Macha Community Network is an example of good practice which Fantsuam would like to replicate. The uniqueness of Community Networks derives from the collaborative building of the infrastructural portion of the internet in a way that meets specific local needs, and makes access more affordable

This summit focused on sharing best practices, new technical findings, identifying what are the best solutions of software and hardware to build community networks .resources that can be accessed locally, and common challenges faced by these practitioners.

Fantsuam Foundation’s take-away from this summit are:
To make contacts with the Nigerian IT regulators on how to encourage more small non-profit organizations to cascade Community Networks to the remote and unreached rural communities of Nigeria.
To support Nigerian Community Networks on use of Thin Clients and solar back-ups to optimize power usage and system maintenance
Support our host communities, individuals and small businesses to develop their web sites which we can be hosted in the Fantsuam Community Network (FCN) mesh.
Develop a module on Community Network for the Diploma Students of ZittNet
Host some eGovernment services on the FCN server so that these are accessible to the members e-Tax, e-Police, e-Records, e-Elections, e-Registration, e-Health, e-Grants, internet banking.
Collaborate with ISOC to undertake advocacy to the Nigerian Government on making the TV White Spaces available to non-profits such as the Community Network in order to make internet access more affordable