Since over a year now in Sarantaporo.gr Non Profit Organization we have been in contact with Internet Society (ISOC) in international meetings, over online interactions and through in-person collaboration with people of the organization who visited our village last Summer. From the beginning we saw that ISOC is an organization which we share a lot of common elements with in terms of vision, and that its network is a natural space for our Community Network to be a part of.
In September 2017 we applied for the Beyond the Net grant of Internet Society in an attempt to approach the organization more closely and pursue funding to finance our Community Network. We are very happy to announce that our proposal was successful and will be funded with $30.000 through 2018 and 2019. This grant arrives very timely, in a period of transformation for our CN.
Continuously growing since 2010 to expand from Sarantaporo to even more villages in the region, today Sarantaporo.gr CN has reached a point where it is no longer possible to keep growing under the previous model, which was heavily dependent on the volunteering work of the non-profit’s core team. Local inhabitants need to step in and take responsibility of their villages’ local community network. Towards this direction we have been working very hard for the past few months to plan and start implementing a new sustainability model which will guarantee the Community Network’s quality, longevity, inclusivity and open access for all.
The ISOC grant will help us address three main challenges, which is integral part of our sustainability model:
The technical challenge
By replacing ageing legacy equipment with modern, much more effective and robust, will enable us to provide higher quality service of improved bandwidth and stability and much better experience for the end users. We have already witnessed that this results to increased interest from locals not only to use the CN, but also to actively take part in running it.
The training challenge
While infrastructure and access are the basic prerequisites, training is the second pillar towards bridging the digital divide. Training extends from basic computer usage for the local inhabitants of the region to advanced networking issues for members of the Sarantaporo.gr NPO. A number of training workshops have been planned and will be delivered in the coming period. At least 80 people from the region will be trained. Of great importance to us is the sustainability aspect: training people who will be able to train others in their village or neighbouring villages.
The community building challenge
Our intervention in the region has provided local communities with a modern communication infrastructure as a commons, which strengthens the community bonds with remote relatives and friends. At the same time the Community Network is a Community per se, which needs to be nurtured to sustainability. Building together our community network, sharing knowledge, planning in a participative manner are the building blocks of our approach to achieve this.
Apart from the grant itself, a significant added value for our Community Network in working with ISOC is that we partake in a global network of Community Networks. In our recent trip to Geneva to participate in the 12th Internet Global Forum 2017 we worked with CNs from all over the world to found the global CN Special Interest Group, which “serves as a vehicle through which Community Networks from around the world can develop, strengthen and promote the Community Network model, draft common strategies, share experiences and expertise, debate policy and regulatory issues and present their views.”
Since the beginning of the new year 2018 we have already started our first steps in our roadmap by acquiring and deploying the first two batches of new devices. The results are promising already: more people are joining our local teams, quality of service is improving and it seems that a significant dynamic is being built up that facilitates our next steps. In February we will visit the villages for the New Year’s “Vasilopita”1, in beginning or mid March we will organize our first workshop along with other events and in April we are planning our first “guerrilla” network node deployment in a village of Tzoumerka, Ioannina prefecture, where we will actually deploy together the community Internet providing node and share our knowledge and expertise with a group of locals.
1 A traditional cake which is offered in special events, organized after New Year’s Eve in Greece