The internet has bypassed much of Eastern Congo. Few people have a smart phone and even fewer a computer. Bandwidth costs are well in excess of $100 per MB per month and people study network technology without even touching a router.
So it may be surprising that an isolated community on the island of Idjwi in Lake Kivu has taken the internet to heart. We set up web access for the young and an information display screen for the community as a whole. An SOS alert messaging system is now in development that allows the community to help one another when in danger. Community businesses fund the whole thing so that access for everyone is free.
The service is called Pamoja (which means ‘together’ in Swahili). Designers and technologists from Europe are involved, as is Fjord and Open Cellular.
Chance, Odette and Ola run the service on the island full time and Patrick and the Ensemble team in Bukavu provide ongoing support. Plus there’s a research group that inputs into development and a training program for those who are new to technology.
There are hundreds of people in the village who access the internet each month and many more who read the information displays. Recent research suggests people feel the service has positively impacted their lives, particularly in terms of social belonging and education. Pamoja is very much a community service.