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Project Overview Jean-Michel Gaud (g10g3993@campus.ru.ac.za)


“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” - Winston Churchill

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” - Oscar Wilde “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened” - ANC Freedom Charter


What is a mesh? A mesh is a high speed wireless TCP/IP ad-hoc network. Each node in the network acts and can receive as well as transmit data to neighbour nodes. A mesh is an efficient and relatively cost effective way of providing internet access to households on a large scale.

What is a Communimesh? A Communimesh a community based implementation of a wireless ad-hoc mesh network. The network is open to all and free to use. The mesh is used, administrated and governed by all individuals that use it. This means that communimesh users are the primary stakeholders and as such have a vested interest in the long-term continuity of the project.


Aims • The provision of a free, reliable and sustainable source of internet connectivity to all within the Makana municipality. • By doing so, increase computer literacy levels within adults and especially children. • The creation of a sustainable framework within to work for the implementation of mesh networks in other similarly underdeveloped communities. • The provision of infrastructural support to pre-existing community engagement projects. • The creation of satellite community engagement projects with the primary focus being that of increasing numeracy and literacy levels amongst children which will support the aims of the Communimesh itself.


A : Hot Spot Topography

B : Mesh Topography

vs. Hot Spot Topography A hot spot topography consists of many client nodes that all connect to the internet via one gateway node. It is a relatively simple network configuration but is limited in terms of geo-spatial scaling. EG; A home ADSL network. Mesh Topography A mesh topography consists of many nodes that all act as receivers as well as transmitters. Nodes relay data among themselves. This means that a client node that does not have a direct connection to a gateway node can still access the internet via a neighbour client node.


Cost Effective Area Coverage As households join the Communimesh, the coverage area of the mesh increases. This means that more More households will be able to join the mesh in the households join future. As these households join the mesh, coverage once again increases. This means that the size of the mesh can increase without increasing the fixed costs of the project.

Greater coverage available


• The failure of one node does not necessarily mean the failure of the network as a whole because nodes can find alternative paths to transmit and receive data through. • Multiple gateway nodes can co-exist which means that the failure of one gateway node does not mean the complete collapse of internet connectivity on the network. This is because the mesh can automatically route all traffic to the nearest working gateway. • The technology that the Communimesh will be based on is open-source which means that all the software if free to use. • It is relatively simple to setup a household on the mesh. The software is designed for mass script updates which means that the mesh is easy to update and administer. • The hardware that is used is a once-off cost . There is no billing required and households never have to pay another cent again.


The Linksys WRT 54 GL is a Linux based wireless router. This gives one the ability to flash the router with meshing firmware.

The Ubiquiti Picostation 2 is similar to the Linksys router in that it is a reprogrammable Linux based wireless router. This router has the added advantage of being weather proof and thus can be used outdoors.

Freifunk is the name of the firmware that will be used on the Ubiquiti and/or Linksys routers. This firmware is open-source and as such is free to use. 1. 2.

Both the Linksys and Ubiquiti routers are in the range of 700 ZAR per unit. For more information on Freifunk go to: 1. http://start.freifunk.net/ 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freifunk


The Freifunk firmware has been designed to function in such a way that allows for the mass sharing of a single ADSL line. 1 ADSL line can provide internet connectivity to over 100 households. In fact, any household that wants to can share their excess bandwidth with the community. The is advantageous because ADSL costs in South Africa as still relatively high when compared to more developed economies. This functionality dramatically decreases project costs and is the main incentive for using this software.

A gateway node. (Sharing Household) A client node. (Using Household) The flow of internet access.


1.

The evaluation and planning phase (2nd Term 2011) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

2.

The implementation and execution phase (3rd Term 2011) 1. 2. 3.

3.

A project sustainability analysis will need to be deducted to see if the project will be sustainable in the forth coming years. A community-need analysis must be undertaken to critically asses where internet connectivity is most needed and where it will have the most impact to improve the lives of those in the community itself. Fund raising for capital equipment purchasing. Community partner program development and recruitment drive. (Bandwidth provider, funding, etc) Short-term, medium-term and long-term sustainability planning.

Purchasing of all fixed capital equipment. (Gateway nodes, proxy servers, antennae, etc) Purchasing of variable capital equipment. (Routers for household) The setup and roll-out of all capital equipment for initial mesh configuration.

The growth, maintenance and expansion phase (4th Term 2011 and onwards) 1. 2. 3. 4.

Maintaining the existing mesh infrastructure. Growing the mesh by adding more household into its network. The facilitation and co-ordination of bring on board pre-existing community engagement projects by highlighting how the Communimesh can strengthen their projects. The development and facilitation of creating new satellite community engagement projects focused on increasing computer literacy, numeracy and literacy among children.


Free and open internet availability is will empower communities and the next generation of scholars. However, the provision of internet availability by itself is not enough make a substantial impact in the lives of those individuals. It is this understanding that acknowledges the need for supporting satellite projects such as: 1. An affordable computer distribution program 1. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative has successfully developed a fully functional laptop that costs 199 USD (1332.56 ZAR). 2. Canonical has developed a derivative of their famous Ubuntu operating systems called Edubuntu. Edubuntu was created is a direct response to the computer literacy needs of children . 3. Sponsorship partners will be asked to donate the computer hardware. 2. A computer literacy tutoring and mentorship volunteer program 1. This volunteer program will be open to all members of the public. 2. Volunteers will be paired up with households who are on the Communimesh to provide basic literacy lessons. 3. This program can be extended to provide syllabus based numeracy and literacy lessons. 1. 2.

One Laptop per Child Homepage: 1. http://one.laptop.org/ Edubuntu Homepage: 1. http://www.edubuntu.org/

Children from rural Madagascar using the OLPC


A strong partner program will ensure that the right parties and stakeholder are brought on board and that their respective strengths are place where they are needed. The following types of partners will be needed: • Financial / Sponsorship Partners • Bandwidth and capital equipment sponsorships • Financial capital contributors • Language and Cultural Partners • The initial drive will focus within the township and as such language and cultural barriers will have to be overcome. • Computer Expertise Partners • Because of the technological nature of the Communimesh, partners that specialize in computer services will be needed for high end technical situations. • Community Partners • A successful community project can only work if the community itself is brought in as a stakeholder in the project. • This is where the most valuable feedback will come from.


1 x Gateway node - Proxy server R5000 – R10 000 - Gateway router R700 1 x Parabolic / Flatbed Antenna (Need to find out costs) - Depends on where the internet gateway is located 1 x Gateway Installation - A Labour cost 10 to 30 x Household nodes - At a cost of R700 each (Households that have existing PC’s will get preference)


What can the Communimesh be used for? The mesh simply provides a high speed network on which you may run any traffic. You can use it for voice & video communication with others on the mesh, fire & crime surveillance, off-site data backup, network gaming, private business networks as well as Internet access.

Will the Communimesh be legal? Yes. The Communimesh will be able to join the Wireless Access Provider's Association. The Communimesh will adhere to the WAPA Code of Conduct. All the equipment that will be used will be ICASA-approved equipment with small antennae that will transmit in the allocated “citizen band� ISM frequency at a fifth of the maximum permissible signal strength. This is sensible technology that will be put to effective use for a wide range of applications and has been touted as an effective communication solution for underdeveloped areas of the world. The Communimesh will encourage everyone to take responsibility for their own telecommunications and are providing mesh technology as a means to do so.


Is providing internet access legal? Commercial internet providers require to appropriate licenses. However WAPA legal advise is that the Communimesh will be a non-profit and non-salary organization and as such is exempt for such licenses requirements, and is still so with the introduction of the introduction of the Electronic Communications Act, implemented in March 2008.

Are wireless signals harmful? The Communimesh routers emit 0.1 mW/cm2 signals at 2.462 GHz. This is 1/30 the signal strength of a cell phone and 1/50 of a microwave oven. A BBC News article explains further. Mesh technology used the lowest signal strength of all devices, including radio and TV because it only has to cover the distance between neighbours.


Makana Communimesh Project Overview