The Importance of Community Networks: Community NetHubs.

By : Adebunmi Adeola Akinbo

Defining Community Networks…

A community network is a computer-based system that is intended to help support communities by supporting, augmenting, and extending already existing social networks, by using networking technologies by, and for, a community.

Community Networks can be described as communications infrastructure, designed and erected to be managed for use by local communities, in any part of the world. They provide a solution that addresses the connectivity challenges that exist in underserved areas of the world. They are well-over forty-nine (49) community networks initiatives in fifteen (15) African countries. Sustain such networks remain in the administrative approach, approval or permits to function, as well as partnership and recognition for the residence in the area of concern.

Growing Concern…

Beyond the definition of CN, the success story of the community networks across the globe has been awesome. It has proven as an educative tool for the community to grow its economic resources, given access to educate the people and persevered the vision of the Internet Society: the internet is for everyone. The unique selling point is the ability to gather the needed resources for setting up such a network and moving forward. The government can easily allocate funds and give waivers to small groups to ensure connectivity in the communities that are less privileged or otherwise and benefit in the short run.

While the internet society believes strongly that a digital future puts its people first, government over the years has not been considering such a fact. This had led to the disconnection of sub-stations serving states, denial of the right of way, and vandalism of Service Provider’s cables of stations.

The Urban settlement often witnesses the suffocation of such Infrastructures when the Rural Citizens migrate for lack of such facilities within their community. Due to a lack of knowledge or exposure to such training as the Internet Society Global Volunteer Training Program on Community Networks (and a host of other courses) for free, the creative’s in such vicinity are forced to migrate. A systemic migration that is not curbed posses a lot of threat to unity and peace and a potential recipe to disaster. The population of such a partially –developed community is compromised by such migration, considering that such infrastructure was not built to sustain the number of new immigrants.

The Importance of Community Network cannot be over-emphasized.

The ISOC Global Volunteer Training Program 2020

This course provides a solid foundation on how to build wireless community networks to foster collective endeavors through a shared, intangible network. It covers important topics such as wireless network standards, radiophysics, practical network planning, IP network administration, radio device configuration, securing wireless networks, and others.

Its Course Objectives are:

  1. Provide a background on wireless standards and explain the difference between open and closed standards, give an overview of the 802 groups of standards, and outline how the 802.11 standard applies to Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs).
  2. Explain key elements of radiophysics, including the properties of a radio wave, the electromagnetic spectrum, polarization, the effects of environmental conditions, and radio propagation in free space.
  3. Discuss the elements of a link budget, explain the calculation of a full link budget, and explore an implementation plan for a wireless link.
  4. Learn IP network fundamentals such as the OSI model, mapping the OSI model to the TCP/IP model, IPv4 addressing, Network Address Translation (NAT), web proxies, firewalls, and IP tunneling.
  5. Discuss the main types of network topologies and describe how well wireless integrates with each of the main topologies.
  6. Provide guidance on physically installing radio device hardware, explain what layers of the OSI model are involved in radio device configuration and outline some of the options for access point encryption.
  7. Recall the core components for wireless network security, describe the different components for routers/firewalls/switches, and explain how to respond to common threats on wireless networks.
  8. Detail the setup of a MicroTik router and cover information about other common access points such as Linksys and EnGenius.
  9. Explain the functions of each layer of the OSI model, apply a methodological approach to troubleshooting, classify typical problems on wireless networks, and discuss tools for troubleshooting issues at each layer of the OSI model.

Volunteers had online sessions to discuss and contribute their wealth of knowledge and challenges to setting up a Community Network. Its challenges were addressed by the available facilitators and training moderators.

Introducing Community NetHUBs…

Community NetHUBs is a not-for-profit initiative to ensure Education and Economic Empowerment of community citizens in understanding the use of the Internet as an enabling platform to showcase skills or capacity using disruptive mobile technology (Handset, Banking App and a marketing channel).

Formerly the Red Hub, It is the first Hub in Nigeria situated in Shasha, Lagos. It had trained and consulted for the community for years with little or no support. Currently, it has acquired land at Adumbu, Itori, Ogun State to commence services to the surrounding villages.

COMNETHUBS believes that it’s Economic Empowerment Strategy is the sole purpose to set the maiden center and replicate by best practice across Nigeria and beyond. Our Partners and Service Providers would use this opportunity to reach more citizens across communities on this continent.

We understand that the deployment of such networks is affordable. It can range from wifi-only to mesh networks with mobile networks that provide voice and SMS services. Managing a network is often pro bono; digital creators gather volunteers to make an impact in their community at all costs.

Moving Forward…

In a submission made to the authorizing agency recently by my initiative, Community NetHUBs, the call was for the government to declare the following;

  1. Declare all installations that would benefit the connectivity of communities and the nation a Critical National Infrastructure;
  2. Play a major role by investing in such infrastructures and facilities for a long-term benefit;
  3. Create a National Educational Broadband Services (NEBS) Spectrum to address approval or permits for installations and licensing matters.

However, some outburst has been recognized and yielding result. Recently, in Nigeria, the government has started paying attention to one of the indices of development by declaring all installations that would allow for access and affordability as Critical National Infrastructure. No doubt that the security of infrastructure would boost connectivity.

Understanding such innovation, the agency responsible had emulated the ISOC program and created its Academy to further propagate and educate willing volunteers to understand and be able to address the issues of sustaining such initiatives that would be in place by Community Networks. It is a positive development, considering the need for more technical capacity to sustain and support such networks.

Having had the opportunity to be part of this course, the Community NetHUBs as rolled out its initiative to duplicate the Zaria Network and create a franchise that would be established across Nigeria and possibly be accepted by like-minds across Africa to synergies and improve approach and strategy for connecting the next billion end-users as projected by the Internet Society.

According to the Internet Society, closing the Digital Divide is critical and community networks offer a solution. These are “do it yourself” networks built by people for people. You can promote, donate to, or even build a community network yourself.

Community NetHUBs is calling to you to create change by working with us.

It’s a win-win with benefits to the cashless economy and local content, more skills, local products, and services with deep insight into available capacity. With the Internet Society pushing its resources to achieve its objective around the world, the Internet is for everyone.

Adebunmi Adeola Akinbo

Team Lead | Community NetHUBs.
Adebunmi Adeola Akinbo is a member of the Internet Society. He is the current Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Chapter and the Team Lead for Community NetHUBs. He is a student of the Internet Society Global Volunteer Training Program on Community Networks.

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