Internet to Idjwi

PAMOJA


The island is large and home to 300,000, most of whom live on less than $1 per day

INTRODUCING:

Ensemble has a good working relationship with a coffee cooperative (CPNCK) and women’s organization (UFIN) on the island of Idjwi and it was with this in mind that the Mwami (King) talked to us about his development plan. His care and commitment shone through as he explained six focus areas for progress, including the need to help the young and wider community engage with technology and in particular with the internet. 

He talked about his hopes that this long-forgotten island might participate in the progress being made elsewhere in the world, but not at the expense of the traditions of the people. The island is large and home to 300,000, most of whom live on less than $1 per day. There is no electricity and only five vehicles and none of the trappings of consumerism. Instead there are strong communities living in a unique and beautiful place. 

Fjord responded to the Mwami’s call for assistance by collaborating with us to conduct research amongst the- 

 

community to better understand people’s interest in the internet and the kind of web-based services that would be useful. 

No one in the research groups owned a computer but a few people owned a smartphone and they expressed lots of interest in internet access. 

Others said they would simply like to know the weather forecast. Many people fish and travel in small canoes on the lake and scores are drowned each year when caught in storms. The people told us that a weather forecast would save many lives. They also said they would like to know the national news and receive information from the island authorities. And if possible they would like an emergency system so the miner’s and fishermen could call for help if in trouble and so householders could be protect from mainland marauders.

PROGRESS SO FAR

Our collaboration with Fjord has resulted in a service called PAMOJA, which means ‘together’ in Swahili. It is available in Bugurula, which is the main village in the north of the island.

The service is in two parts, the first of which distributes wifi in the evenings and enables people to congregate in the kiosk or in the bars across the road and use the internet on their smartphones. The signal is brought into Bugurula from Liaison Congo in Bukavu by a relay of antennas. 

The second part is a screen display on the main street that shows the news and weather forecast and provides an opportunity for the hospital and school and of course the Mwami to update the community on developments.

 

Local people are also using the system to broadcast news and information about and to each other. They talk to Chance who lives in Bugurula and who is managing the project. He updates the raspeberry pi and well, that’s it.

Chance is also conducting research. As many as fifty people are gathering at one time around the kiosk, many  of whom are investigating the news, doing research for their job or for studies, or looking for work opportunities. 

It’s a new opportunity and we will soon be offering classes to introduce people to the internet and explain the dangers as well as the opportunities. We will also be arranging workshops to co-create the next iteration of services and plan the service expansion.