Building a Sustainable Community Network in Tanzania: A Case of Kondoa Community Network
Kondoa, 20th December 2019
Kondoa Community Network (KCN) organized an internal meeting that brought together 31 participants of its community members. The meeting was facilitated by Jabhera Matogoro (Mozilla Fellow, Tanzania), Jaspreet Sing (Kirat Communications, India), Bonface Witaba (tzCNA, Kenya), and Haji Dachi (Integrated Management Limited, Tanzania). The meeting’s overarching aim was to allow members to brainstorm on ways to build sustainable community networks that could sustain itself beyond the funding period. Kondoa Community Network is a result of the research project that was supported by the University of Dodoma and ISOC Tanzania Chapter through Beyond the Net Funding.
Hon. Edwin Mgante Sannda, Member of Parliament from Kondoa Town Constituent, the guest speaker, graced the two-day event that took place at Study Zone Computer Centre in Kondoa, on 9 – 10th December 2019. In his keynote address, Mr. Gershon Utonga, Kilimani Ward Executive Officer representing Hon. Sannda lauded the initiative in its mission to open Kondoa to the world and empower the community to attain agenda 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is about Reduce inequality. Gershon appreciated the role played by the Kondoa Community Network in providing high-speed Internet access to four educational institutions using the unused spectrum resources in Kondoa. He further called for the Government of Tanzania and other stakeholders to join the efforts in making sure that television white space technology and community network initiatives could be replicated in other parts of the countries specifically to connect the unconnected population in Tanzania. Further, Mr. Gershon cited the importance of public-private partnerships, a move he felt would help. With KCN, Gershom thought that it provided an ideal space where residents help promote tourist attraction sites and centers of attraction available in Kondoa to the rest of the world.
Mr. Haji Dachi presented on sustainable business development services for a community-based network. In his presentation, Mr. Haji discussed the importance of corporate governance, compliance, operational planning, and legacy. Mr. Haji Dachi also talked about product placement. He opined that focusing on customer segmentation and their needs was a vital aspect of a sustainable business model. Mr. Haji cited the need to offer services to non-members and emphasized the importance of forging partnerships with donors. Both will ensure sustainable service provision to community members who may not be able to pay for the services; this may include students at school and a few members of the community. Furthermore, he pointed out that it was vital to lay strategies that would guide service providers and consumers of the service. Haji added that it was necessary to educate the community on the issue of communication in the quest to be able to promote their community network and the services provided to potential clients. With regards to market survey, Haji reiterated, it was essential to identify what value-added services would be provided to the target consumer market.
Mr. Jaspreet Singh, CEO, and Founder of Kirat Communications from India presented on strategies to connect the unconnected from India’s perspective. Mr. Jaspreet hailed the Indian government for playing its part in ensuring no one was left behind in its digital India Programme. The Digital India program is a flagship program of the Government of India with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. He added that Telcos and ISP companies were, however, adamant about investing in areas where their return on investment would be low, thus cutting out many marginalized communities. In his presentation, Jaspreet enumerated the following fundamental principles; INNOVATE products that make sense, SHARE how the product is made, INTEGRATE local knowledge, INCLUDE local eco-system services, and last but not least, ENSURE self-sustainability and business continuity. He further collaborated with Kondoa Community Members to identify local services that may contribute to building sustainable community networks. These services may range from education, branding, infrastructure, cultural activities to partnerships. Mr. Jaspreet further participated in the deployment of several local services that can be delivered locally to the rural community without requiring International Internet access. These services included the Talkie app, a knowledge-sharing platform in India that was developed by KIRAT, an award-winning startup that he founded.
Mr. Matogoro Jabhera talked about Mozilla Fellowship and his core roles through the Open Internet Engineering Mozilla Fellowship, OpenCellular, a technology that connects rural communities and GAIUS Networks platform to be introduced in Tanzania. Mr. Jabhera further acknowledged the excellent support from the Government of Tanzania in making sure that Community Network is recognized as an official strategy to connect the unconnected population in Tanzania. Although the current regulations and policies DO NOT recognize the community networks and television white space like the formal strategies to bring online the unconnected population I believe that soon this option will be available, said Jabhera Matogoro. He further revealed that with KCN setting the pace, to date, there were six (6) more community networks to be established soon in Tanzania.
The impact workshop was a very critical event for members to trace back their mistakes and finally developed a sustainable business model for the Kondoa Community Network. After two days of debates and discussion, ultimately, members developed People-Public-Private-Partnership (4P) as its pilot sustainable business model. The proposed business sustainability model is 4Ps. Participants attended the event contributed about USD 440 to help pay the pending dues. On behalf of community members who participated in the impact workshop, Ms. Sophia Mumba, Mr. Adam Kimolo and Ms. Salama Salum appreciated the knowledge gained from the two-day internal seminar. They called for a more similar event to actively build their in-house competency that contributed to better understand the concept of a community network in the local context. Furthermore, members of the Kondoa Community Network are calling for more partners and friends to join their efforts in paying the pending unpaid bills from its backhauling operator. Mr. Jabhera Matogoro appreciated the commitment of the Kondoa Community Network members of paying the pending bills so that the Internet services can be restored to the connected sites in Kondoa and benefits the community.
The curtains of the two-day event were drawn with a closing keynote speech by Ms. Kaunga Amani, Acting Kondoa Town Director. Ms. Kaunda expressed her pleasure in joining the KCN Impact Workshop and lauded Mr. Matogoro for the tremendous work of ensuring the unconnected populations in Kondoa were indeed connected. She urged Kondoa residents to utilize KCN to their economic advantage by marketing their products and services to the outside world. Ms. Kaunda Amani added that it was fundamental to build capacity with the community in efforts to educate and aid them in striving to overcome the challenges related to digital illiteracy. She elaborated that the Government of Tanzania has dedicated much of the resources in investing in the energy sector. A factor she said would steer Tanzania into industrialization as envisioned in the Tanzania Vision 2025 blueprint. Ms. Kaunda mentioned that her office would collaborate with KCN and help clear outstanding charges owed by Halotel courtesy of KCN co-location of their communication devices on Halotel’s infrastructure and bandwidth cost.
Report by Matogoro Jabhera (Mozilla Open Internet Engineering Fellow), Bonface Witaba (Senior Communications Officer, Tanzania Community Networks Alliance) and Salome Nkonoki ( Assistant Communications Officer, Tanzania Community Networks Alliance).
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are solely those gathered by the author(s) and should not necessarily be construed to be those of any of organs or agencies nor any other organization (s) mentioned or discussed. This article is released under cc-by-sa 4.0 International license, and translation into other languages is encouraged. For more information, please contact the author(s) and or tzCNA.