The journey through Lanet Umoja community network in Nakuru Kenya

 

Our proposed solution entails working with unconnected communities to build their capacities to establish and maintain community-based and owned telecommunications infrastructure. Most of African homes and businesses do not have access to fixed broadband through fiber or Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Looking at the income patterns of individuals and small-scale businesses, most get to work every day to get income to cover daily amenities this includes money to buy Internet bundles which is relatively expensive giving a clear explanation of Kenya’s “kadogo economy” where you find hourly Internet bundles or subscription tariff.

The project is about the human capacity building related to women and Community Networks. The solution used gender sensitive approaches and deliberately involve women as leaders and vocal persons in the design, installation and maintenance of Lanet Umoja Community Networks. We build the technical, policy, and leadership capacities of women in establishing and managing these Community Networks.

With the help of our able sponsors USAID, KENET on early 2019 we collaborated with Chief Francis Kariuki of Lanet Umoja Community in Nakuru North District, our goal was to mobilize local women community leaders in Lanet Umoja to implement a local wireless community network for public utility and service at an affordable rate. Chief Francis Kariuki is successfully using social media to mobilize over 400 women community leaders. Lanet Umoja has 30,000 people living in about 7,500 households.

Afchix mission being to create an exemplary organization and network of African Women in Computing with a desire to inclusively provide: opportunities, mentor ship, capacity building and inspire young generations through role modeling .A manageable group of ladies was picked up by the project coordinator and Afchix founder, youths from various universities to help with steering of the project and mentorship of other ladies in the community so as to make the project a successful to foster Afchix’s mission, vision, motto and core values to reality.

The project commenced by understanding the view of the community on community network, their expectation, their contribution and more so ever how it will be of benefit to them (economically, socially, spiritually) especially the women in the community mainly in their day to day activities.

With steering group majorly based in Nairobi, the project activities were scheduled based on our availability, the general project was broken down to manageable tasks keeping factors of project timing, cost and quality on check. In Feb 2019, the first project task was dealt on, several site surveys were undertaken by the team to survey the area and check-up of the already established network infrastructure (the service providers, cabling around amenities) so as to see the accountability with the incoming new network, the site survey aimed on checking of any network barriers (line of site) within the network zone in terms of bandwidth delay i.e.- the terrain layout, Nakuru county being at the lane of the great rift valley the factor was of great concern, but it was well dealt on by the engineers on the ground, servers and access points zones was also picked up keeping, factors of network equipment,   and general functionality of the network at hand, the activities was made possible by the support of network engineers from KENET, the area Champion who is the chief, the Project coordinator and the Afchix mentees teams . The activity took at least two days’ time. Unemployment rate becoming rampant especially among the youth in African countries; Kenya being one of them Lanet Umoja on the map. The youths from the area shared the views on the economic use of the community network and it was quite impressive since many great innovative ideas could now be natured, and many youths problems be solved I.e. online writing, online marketing and selling of the locally produced products like ornaments, farm products and taking of short online courses to boost their academic career since a number of the youths are from tertiary institutions level. Several hands on training practices was carried out in the area on basic network functionality, basic network devices and their functionality, cabling and general network connectivity and maintenance with a desired numbers of youths volunteering on the process . The youths were also encouraged to enroll on several certified free online courses offered by the internet society (ISOC) which was introduced to them by Lanet Umoja project coordinator to mentor them and keep them engaged during the period and for future benefit.  Many locally mobilized community clubs played a major role in mentorship also by showcasing hidden talents and carrying out some follow up programs.

The next task was network engineering processes which took a good number of project time, the main network hotspot(transmitters and receivers) in various schools in the area and the server zones was constructed by setting up the transmitter mast at Lanet secondary, Bishop Edward and Murunyu high school-,clearing the already available offered server room and setting up connection and device installations(EnGenius radios, EnGenius Access Point, power UPS and switches). All tasks were being done by the project coordinator, Afchix mentees team and the sites engineers from Kenya educational networks (KENET) who are the main ISP (Internet service provider) for the community  the network is drawn from the neighboring university offering a network speed of 50mbps with a service level of up to 0.099%.A second transmitter mast was setup at the local school, Bishop Edwards Donovan Secondary since it is at a higher level compared to other social amenities this will the hot spot zone in the area available schools to be connected are Nakuru East Primary school, Lanet primary school, Lanet Umoja primary school, Kamurunyu primary school and Murunyu secondary school, chiefs office among other many social amenities. After the general network distribution and sharing, testing was also done in the processes to entertain speed, connectivity and accessibly to the last mile be for officially provisioning of the internet to the local community which is still an ongoing activity monitored by KENET. Maintenance and monitoring of the network services is done by the area youths.

Internet being a service it must have rules and guidance based on consumption and usage to maintain the service level and meets its goals for better optimization and functionality. To achieve this a billing system service was introduced by Afchix, this was a custom made software called Ironwifi for the implementation processes the system was well explained by the core billing team to the network leading management team on how the system function, the billing rates  are Ksh 200, Ksh 50 and Ksh 10 the charges rate depending on the client. Out of the charges the income collected will be saved on community saving account which will be managed by the designate authorities for network maintenance and general community projects boost up depending on the community buying rates. The network (Wi-Fi) is aimed at benefiting the community in general so the rates are set up at a standard affordable fee rate keeping the factor of reliability, availability and functionality at a constant.

The next network phase is distribution of the network service (Wi-Fi) to the last mile which is still an ongoing process to make each and every household around Lanet Umoja region able to access this internet service depending on their income level so as to make everyone a beneficiary either directly or indirectly. This can be achieved by the ongoing cooperation, hospitality and willingness of Lanet Umoja community being led by the “tweeting” area chief whose mission is to make Lanet Umoja a network hotspot zone by 2030.

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