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Upgrading the Zenzeleni Network

Project Organizer:
Lwando Mdleleni, South Africa Gauteng Chapter

Start date: March 2016

Mankosi, in the Eastern Cape Province, is one of South Africa’s most economically disadvantaged communities. Most residents live on less that $2 US per day. In spite of this, the people living there value connectivity like anyone else. Residents spend an average 22% of their income on the ability to connect and communicate. Unfortunately, even with this, less than a quarter of residents are online in any given month. Those that are keep their usage to a minimum.

Thankfully, Mankosi is getting an alternative to expensive, spotty service. The Zenzeleni Network co-op was set up in 2012 to provide voice service to the community, using analog phones connect to WiFi routers and VOiP technology.

Now, South Africa Gauteng Chapter and the University of Western Cape are assisting Zenzeleni Networks to upgrade the system to create a powerful and stable network to help get more people online. The program will also see computer labs set up in the Mankosi’s primary and secondary school, and computer literacy training for teachers. The goal is to make it possible for people in Mankosi to get online for a fraction of what it currently costs, and turn Zenzeleni into a model for community-owned telecommunications companies.

Project goals:
  • Deployed an operational dual band WiFi mesh network extending the number of points of presence of the current one in the first three months of the project.
  • Connected the network to a cheaper and more reliable backhaul in the first three months.
  • Set up the computer rooms in the school and the high school and provided basic computer literacy to their teachers by the fourth month.
  • Provided training about the potential of community networks and the Internet, including electronic resources available online in isiXhosa, innovation, ICT and entrepreneurship by the sixth month.
  • Made available to community members at the PoP WiFi-enabled devices to navigate the Internet at a fraction of the prices available by existing providers by the sixth month.
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Project Status:
In progress

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