Open-Source WiFi for Rural Communities

ZDNet writes about a group called Informal:

Informal claims its wireless roadshow is an attempt to empower non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the developing world to own, operate and grow their own Internet infrastructure using wireless technology such as mesh networking. The aim is to allow remote communities in developing countries without traditional telecoms infrastructure to communicate more effectively.

Informal plans to use emerging wireless mesh technology to create cheap, robust connections in remote areas that do not have an established telecoms infrastructure. Each device on a mesh network receives and transmits its own traffic, while acting as a router for other devices; intelligence in each device allows it to automatically configure an efficient network, and to adjust if, for example, a node becomes overloaded or unavailable. The advantages include ease of set-up, the ability to spread wireless access over a wide area from a single central wired connection, and the inherent toughness of such networks.

Key to the Informal project is the development of a blueprint for a low-cost, wireless, rugged computing device which Informal will encourage the NGOs to develop and build. The so-called Autonokit will essentially be a low-cost computer that can work on non-standard power sources such as solar, wind, micro-hydro or even bicycle power.

The Autonokit will run an open-source Linux or BSD distribution optimised for networking and auto configuration. It will be equipped with a 12V battery in case of power cuts, low wind or a fuel shortage.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.