“Digital Divide” or “Digital Information Barrier” refers to the substantial asymmetry in the distribution and effective use of information and communication resources. It is widely believed that the Internet is the global information highway, by opening two-way information ﬂows, empowers individuals and communities, particularly creating new opportunities for individuals living in remote areas. This is possible if connectivity is provided to them, in order to access a wide range of markets, seek new opportunities, learn new skill sets, get better quality health care, become aware of their rights and exercise them.
Mobile phones and cellular technology enable people to connect with other like-minded people and groups, Internet has become an integral part of economic, social and cultural lives, shaping the way we communicate with others, bringing education in our home, creating new jobs, raising their voices and opinions, sharing and receiving information. Despite various initiatives, four billion people in the world are still unconnected and unable to benefit from key social and economic resources in our expanding digital world, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report. The traditional model of providing the Internet should not be necessarily considered as the most efficient one. “Wireless Community Networks” or Community based Internet Service Provider (C-ISP) are such networks whose infrastructure is developed and built by small organisations and community members by pooling their resources. These alternative models like Community wireless networks (CWNs) have been tested and tried in both developing and developed countries to connect the unconnected remote regions.
The Wireless for Communities (W4C) programme of DEF is one of the community wireless networks that is trying to provide affordable, ubiquitous and democratically controlled Internet access in rural regions of the country. The network provides the low-cost internet connectivity services in rural and remote areas.
Since 2010, the W4C has been using different models from connecting the unconnected and unserved regions of the country. These models include hub and spoke based Smart Village to internet enabled van, known as ‘Internet on the Wheels’.
- Digital Smart Village (hub-and-spoke based model)
- Internet in a box
- Connecting artisans & cultures
- Community campuses
- Internet on the wheels
Each model is different from one-another but have uniformity of providing the internet connectivity services to unserved regions where community is yet struggling to have reliable internet services.