The village that built its own wi-fi network – BBC Africa


The middle of nowhere has been keeping a secret. And we’re off to find out what it is
and how it can change Africa. South Africa has one of the highest internet
penetration rates on the continent. But despite that, people who live in remote
places like this say they don’t use the Internet. Two of the biggest barriers,
according to research: affordability and accessibility. Mankosi is made up of 12 villages. Home to over 6,000 people. And until late last year there was no electricity
here. Running water is still a luxury. But they have a cheap and stable wi-fi network. They built and registered their own internet
service provider. I’m wondering if I can buy a voucher. Yes, you can buy a voucher. How much does it cost? 25 rand ($1.70; £1.30). Only 25 rand, it lasts a whole month. Mama Sigcau is one of the elders who convinced
other villagers that the internet would bring development here. She’s one of a handful who sell vouchers
that gives residents and visitors uncapped wi-fi for under $2 a month. Did you you know what wi-fi was before it
came here? No, no, we didn’t know. We didn’t know anything about wi-fi. It is when it came and connected and then we see this is something
that gives us a better life. And at school people do their homework, everything. Even though I don’t have TV,
I can see news, everything. South Africa’s data prices are still among
the most expensive on the continent. According to the latest research, out of Africa’s
six leading economies one gigabyte of data would cost you seven times more here than
in Egypt. That’s three times more expensive than in
Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. So why is Mankosi wi-fi so cheap? Seven years ago researchers from the University
of the Western Cape, with the help of the community, built a mesh network here. It’s a cheap, low-energy system using scattered
node devices rather than a central mast or beacon that’s used by traditional telecoms
networks. These nodes communicate with each other. An important feature is that it’s solar
powered. So, we are at the home of one of the headmen
of the villages that make up Mankosi. This is known as Ncgobo and once a month community
members meet here as part of the co-operative. It functions much like a business. And this is the board meeting. Except it’s owned, operated and maintained
by villagers. They collect the money made from
selling wi-fi vouchers. This is funnelled into community
projects. The name of the network is Zenzeleni. It means ‘do it yourself’. And 33-year-old Zuko Tshitshi is the embodiment
of the slogan. Previously unemployed and unskilled, he’s
now the resident technician. Looks like there’s a problem with our connection
here. The village built this mast themselves at a fraction of what telecommunications companies quoted. At the beginning when this dream came to our
village I thought it’s impossible, you know. We can’t make a network because we never
studied the network. It’s impossible. But as the time goes, I saw this was going
to be real, that’s why I put my effort trying to learn everything technically. My dream has come true now. I like to prove people wrong. When I see the kids using the internet they
know the internet they are using was made by the people they know,
from here in the same village. It’s like… I’m a God to them. We want to know where they buy the internet, we want to know what they are doing with the internet. While Zuko maintains the infrastructure
others are trying to understand how the internet is used. These researchers are doing a survey. Professor William Tucker oversees the project. We are interested in seeing the different
usage patterns because we want to learn what are the barriers to people adopting the technology and what are the things they are actually using it for. One of the biggest barriers is access to devices
that support the network. We are searching for the cause of globalisation. At this local school students make use of
smartphones. We are about 60km from Mankosi in an area
called Zithulele and this village is the latest one to get online. How difficult it is to balance the traditional
way of life with bringing advancement in the form of wi-fi or this network? Yeah, yeah it’s not easy. Retaining traditional community values and
combining it with advanced technology, to me that’s what a rural community network
is. It’s like this meeting of two worlds. The youth will come and do things that we
can’t even think of. I think it’s amazing. Community networks like this one could be
a way to connect Africa to the global village. Driven by the innovation and energy of the
youth – the people of Mankosi say this is just the start for Zenzeleni. This is my dream now. It is inside my heart now, I can’t run from
this now anymore.

100 thoughts on “The village that built its own wi-fi network – BBC Africa

  1. Its wonderful to see the "local black Africans", doing things for themselves. This why they can also build up their communities. Have communication, with CE phones, TV, computers, and help too with education (online if possible). Black Africans can get work together with others who have more experience and skills to show them what to do. Well done all of those who have made it possible.

  2. okay, its one thing to create your own local wifi network, but its also a whole other thing having it fully SOLAR POWERED!!!!

  3. BBC be like: take them to UK, you should sacrifice your jobs and money for them, it's time UK becomes poor too

  4. This is a great video. Shame about the racist comments. From both whites and blacks. Those comments are what cause more division. Get a grip. Help, rather than hinder.

  5. I accept but too much expensive specially data plan , call rates more more then India . Like u can say telecom company robbing here people if is like this how will people be digitally sign up

  6. I live in cape town my grandparents are originally from about a 1 hour drive from here and hopefully this spreads through the entire rural Eastern cape( province)we really need it. Enkosi kakhulu

  7. This is awesome to see and I know recently, communities in some low income parts of Detroit have done this as well. I'm down to see this movement grow 👍🏾

  8. Internet is supposed to be free .. it can be made to connect but its a crime/illegal its all hackers do .. I mean why pay this fcking theives when you can make it your self

  9. Is no one going to talk about how they dont even have clean drinking water yet are putting all this effort into wifi? Really?

  10. AT&T CHARGES ALMOST $100 a month for I think it was 10 gigs!?? Something like that! But it's absolute thievery!!!! I'm shocked more people like myself don't just start screaming at them all at once!!!!!

  11. You want to change Africa. convince white people or Asians to move there. In 10-20 years it will become a great country. You of course will have to elect the same in government to allow those with higher intelligence run the country. That will change Africa for the better, not the crap-hole it is today.

  12. "The shopkeeper" has a quest. .. sounds like a character in a game who at first unassuming but turns out to be very very important

  13. So, villagers from 3rd world countries are far more civilized and smarter than any 1st world redneck that has everything on their disposal. if this is not irony, then I don't know what is.

  14. With the stuff going on in South Africa I hope the reporter was safe!. But this is a good video. Africans do not need to rely on other nations they can build their own loving society.

  15. Why was the slave trade an 80% Jewish run affair? Good to see our brothers in Africa getting more technology advanced.

  16. We, the Israelites created the internet. The fourth beast, like with all things have taken credit or this invention like the do with all things. The appropriating mushrooms did not create this technology, but they control access and made the location for everything based on the number 666 (www). We created the fiber optic cable and virtually evreything that is civilizing and advancing. When you know the truth, the oppressor is recognized to be a thief that only comes to steal, steal, and destroy.

  17. Their must always be a group of people arguing about race. White or black those people did something great so for those saying black power or whites did it long ago how about you did it yourself.

  18. If it wasn't for the corrupted government in Africa, Africa would be in the big leagues as well. It's sad to see so many countries with potential but their own people hold them down. Africa can thrive . Many of these countries all over the world can thrive.

  19. Wow. This is very inspirational. I'd like to see more stories about the small and upcoming developments in Africa.

  20. AWESOME OPPORTUNITY FOR GENERATIONAL WEALTH!

    The leaders of the community should patient all their advancements and ideas to deter intellectual property theft. …Because Many ideas are stolen by others who get the prototype secrets and then rush to file paperwork as if it (the network logistics, mode of operation, and economic opportunity) belonged to them. …secondly, anyone that comes in to “study” the operations of your network should be required to sign a non disclosure agreement. Many companies buy-out and or steal business opportunities in order to maintain a status quo of market share at higher prices.

  21. you'll find the conspiracy everywhere hidden in soft language. south africa has the highest internet penetration, yet the highest prices for internet. so who is able to afford this highest penetration? oh, that's right. the neanderthal overlords. their time is coming. all non africans must be expelled. and like idi amin said, it has to be done quickly. you've spent years looting africa, no need to be gentle expelling this pestilent parasite

  22. Awesome video! Although, I would have liked to see the Upload/Download speeds and where the main hub was located at.

  23. this is not a comprehensive story….what is the uplink/downlink service provider..they can not be just connecting multiple nodes
    and getting the internet….or are you saying it is a local network allowing the to exchange data and communicate locally…

  24. if you want this to be replicated for the whole continent think a complete story with solutions description would help different parts of africa mirror development…..

  25. Africa the birth place of civilisation we are taking over the world am proud to be an African and am very black very very black

  26. If they’d make it Open Source and share how they built it, some people would be willing to share knowledge on how to improve it.

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