[DC3] Dynamic Coalition on Innovative Approaches to Connecting the Unconnected

Coenraad Loubser coenraad at wish.org.za
Fri Nov 18 16:49:57 UTC 2016


Hi Sharanda

That is a really valuable list, thank you for sharing.

I would encourage you to become involved in a community network yourself,
and to connect yourself to one if you can and try to use only that, or to
spend time with the people doing the connections. I feel like a lot of
assumptions get made if you look at things from the outside, and those
assumptions lead to most of the problems we see today.

Gui - I think the demand side / supply side definitions come from
economists, and used by government consultants advising on where policy and
incentives should focus. Supply side interventions being competition, price
and infrastructure, and demand side being user education, advertising,
technology incubation and so on - and yes, community networks do blur the
lines, although most governments would see them as very much a demand side
thing, so I'm curious to see most listed as supply side on the list.

*Industry definitions*

Does anybody else think that we need better defiitions?

I personally think our industry lacks universally understood definitions.
We each attended our own universities and have been taught with our own
materials. When we say "Community Network" it means 10 different things to
10 different people.

Is anyone keen to work on a community dictionary or taxonomy? Where we can
perhaps suggest new terms that have not yet had time to be mangled by
misuse? One would hope that this is what education is for, but I would be
very wary of any course titled "Telecommunications Economics" or
"Telecommunications MBA". I think the materials and definitions should be
universally understood, unambiguous, and in the public domain, and fit for
purpose.

*Economics*

The greater problem I see is that people have too many different ideas of
what Governments can and can't do, and what they're good at, and what to
measure them on, and how they relate to the private sector.

This is my view - you may disagree - but the sooner we can come up with
good, perhaps new definitions that will clarify what we disagree on,
specifically, the sooner we can find where our views apply and where they
don't, and the sooner we can measure different ideas and make "apples to
apples" comparisons and learn more universal lessons.

If you can bear with me - In a sense, everything is about control vs.
letting go. A forced way vs. a natural way. My way vs your way. Our way vs.
the way of "other people".

A government/company/community is just a system of control. Some systems of
control have checks and balances and some don't. Some organizations can
resist individuals with a strong will, conviction or sense of purpose, most
can't.

A system of control is a vehicle of power. Even with the best checks and
balances, all systems of control are a way for a minority to make decisions
for a majority. If it's the right decision, it is immesely powerful. If
it's the wrong decision, it causes a lot of inefficiency.

There are many examples of great government decisions, but many more of
terrible ones (and perhaps many more of a complete absence of decisions,
but perhaps that's a good thing.) The thing is that if you build a system
of control and even if it is run by good people, there are so many people
with other views, or narrower or wider views in the world, and if you build
a system of control, it is just a matter of time before the wrong people
get to run it, a ticking time bomb if you will.

Sometimes a wider view is mandated, sometimes a narrower view. But applying
the wrong view in the wrong market is the definition of a disaster. What
will be good in 10 or 20 years from now, could be the worst thing today,
and vice versa. It is perhaps an art to be in touch with all facets of a
community, and do the right thing at the right time, and much easier to be
out of touch.

In my view, the bigger a corporate becomes, the more it becomes like a
government. They're similar in the way they operate, and differ mostly in
the way their success is measured: If a big corporate renders services or
make products that are not needed, wanted or competitive, it goes out of
business - as long as anyone one is allowed and empowered to compete, ie.
the barrier to entry to compete is low enough. If a government fails at
something it simply raises taxes and tries again if it still has time
before it is voted out of power, but it needs to fail badly in several
areas for that to happen. If it does one thing well but enough small things
terrible, we're doomed to live with the small terrible things. Which is why
governments, in my view, should do very specific things, and as little as
possible of everything else.

In my view Governments should focus on measuring and making work visible,
and promote competition using minimum regulation. Putting some
infrastructure project out to tender should be an absolute last resort,
always. All regulation should have measurable goals, and express expiry
dates, and should be confined to small regions and only expanded to bigger
regions if said regulation is a measured success in the small region.

The private sector needs to have a clear view of the big picture (the
"work" made visible by government) and where their industry fits into the
economic cycle, and where the supply and demand gaps are and where they can
compete, and there should be nothing in their way, and all this information
should be as democratized / easily accessible as possible.

Competition is perhaps just an organic way to distribute power / have the
market find a price that suits everyone. If someone renders services really
cheaply, they will probably become a natural monopoly, if they can keep it
up. If they mess up, ie. raise prices, render bad service, etc. but anyone
can compete, people will compete with them and break their monopoly. The
problem is that many monopolies are protected by complex regulation.
Sometimes its good, sometimes its bad.

But that's not enough. Resources are needed to render service, and
assymetric access to them probably explain most market discrepancies (along
with assymetric access to government controls or "favors".) Anything can be
viewed as a resource: connectivity, education, money, manufacturing,
goodwill, cooperation, even mistrust.

Then there's also scale. Doing something for 10 people is not the same as
for 100 people is not the same as for 1000 people or 10 000 people or 100
000 people or 1 000 000 people or 10 000 000 people or 100 000 000 people
or 1 000 000 000 people etc.

And very importantly - layers. Different industries, and different layers
in the industries. Vertical integration of industries, eg. when in
connectivity, the same company makes the cables, installs them, arranges
the interconnect, sells services to customers, etc - that  creates a lot of
control and power, but it also creates a bottleneck if it is out of touch
with the market, whereas flat/level/competitive markets remove bottlenecks
and allows anyone to do any part of something for anyone else. Eg. in many
markets/industries you get retail/wholesale seperation, enforced by
regulation. This serves to undermine vertical integration, and allows more
people to compete on each level.

Really generalizing overall, broadly speaking, in my view, everything tends
to either one of two schools of thought: High tax, big government, lots of
control vs. low tax, lean government, self-control.

It is of course a lot more complex than that, but ultimately, in my view,
everything will tend to either the one or the other, and the world has many
examples of both that we can learn from if we have the right definitions.

*Community network models*

So how does this all relate to community networks?

I would argue that most community networks are testament to the fact that
governments and large corporates are ineffective, or out of touch with
their markets. In a sense, because our governments couldn't care for us,
we're taking things into our own hands.

"They couldn't give us decent, affordable telecommunications, so we built
it ourselves."

Or it might simply be a reflection on the fact that there is a lot of
inequality in the world. The rich people have had everything sorted our for
themselves. Thankfully they gave us the internet, so we can self organize
and copy them, and also become "rich". This is just us using our time,
instead of our money, to do something that they demed their time too
precious to spend on.

But if we don't understand the forces that caused this, we are doomed to
reinvent government, and end up with just more of the same, just different
people in different places. The oppressed will become the oppressors, and
someone else will now be the oppressed.

What makes me really excited about networks, and especially community
networks, is the fact that an actual network mimicks a lot of what goes on
in the market. Networks have analogies and metaphors for almost everything
that happens in the world, in civilization and in nature.

The act of building, maintaining and using a network, is a golden
opportunity to learn about how the world works, how civilization came to
be, and the natural forces that govern them all.

*Network models*

So the question is, what are the minimum number of independent layers or
components needed for a community network to flourish? The declaration that
has been passed around mention a lot of things. How many of them are
mandatory and how many of them are optional? How do they interrelate - are
some components more important than others? Is there a one size fits all,
or do the priorities change depending on which community you want to apply
it to?

Ultimately "the internet" is also just a system for control. A new type of
megaphone, capable of amplifying both bad and good things. Will a well
informed and educated community benefit more from it? Or are the benefits
the same to all communities? How do we measure these benefits?

So going back to the spreadsheet - can we build a model that will
incorporate, say, just 10, or 5, or 3, or 2 even, aspects of each
organization, each country, each region, each technology, and each
community, that we can use to measure the most vital parts of how each
initiative works to meet its goals? Imagine we could come up with useful
metrics, and imagine all projects could be measured on the same metrics,
how much we could learn.

If someone can explain all of these things simply, or create an authority
that does, in such a way that most people could actually read / see / start
to think about it or understand it, perhaps that is half the solution right
there, and isn't that what we are counting on?

Coenraad Loubser

Wireless Internet Services & Hardware (Pty) Ltd.
210 Long Street, Cape Town, 8001, ZA

Office: +27 21 481 1824
Skype: Coenraad_Loubser
Email: coenraad at wish.org.za
Cell: +27 73 772 1223
Web: http://wish.org.za

-- Spending Money is like watering a plant.

On Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 4:27 PM, Gui Iribarren <gui at altermundi.net> wrote:

> On 17/11/16 20:07, Sharada Srinivasan wrote:
> > Hi all,
> >
> > I've been an observer on this group for a few months now and have been
> > amazed by the breadth of the discussions. This seems like a good time to
> > introduce myself.
> >
> > My name is Sharada Srinivasan, and I'm a research fellow at the Center
> > for Technology, Innovation and Competition at the University of
> > Pennsylvania. I have a bachelor's degree in electrical and electronics
> > engineering and a master's degree in public policy, both from
> > universities in India. I work on a research project called 1 World
> > Connected, which, as Carlos and Jane have mentioned, is seeking to
> > develop case studies of different projects across the world that are
> > engaged in connecting the unconnected. I do so by desk research and
> > where possible, conducting interviews with pioneers of such projects.
> > Community networks are one of our areas of focus, but the project also
> > looks at other supply-side solutions such as TVWS deployments and rural
> > ISPs, as well as demand-side initiatives such as those focused on
> > digital literacy and local content development. We have an initial
> > catalog of all such initiatives that we want to build case studies of
> > over here: https://goo.gl/rZLsWN, and I am working steadily to build
> > this out over the course of the next year. Indeed, you will notice that
> > a number of the initiatives on the list are community networks, and I
> > look forward to engaging with people on this list for the same at the
> IGF.
>
> I'm amused by the column "Demand/Supply", I think that's a good example
> that gives this feeling about difference of perspectives ;)
>
> I mean, at least some of the community networks listed (that I know,
> like guifi.net, funkfeuer, freifunk) would not consider themselves
> simple "Suppliers", or in the best case "demanders that are supplying
> themselves", promoting local contents and such. So they would be on both
> sides of that question.
>
> But in general, the research project doesn't sound narrow-minded at all,
> so I imagine you'll have fruitful exchanges with the DC3
>
> Cheers!
>
> Gui
>
>
> >
> > I am one of the members of the Dynamic Coalition on Innovative
> > Approaches to Connecting the Unconnected. Professor Christopher Yoo,
> > Helani Galpaya, Michael Kende and Rajan Mathews are the primary
> > convenors of the dynamic coalition. I thought it might be useful to
> > clarify here that the dynamic coalition from what I am aware of is aimed
> > to be a lot broader than the specific research project and seeks to work
> > with and gain input from as many members of the community as possible.
> > Our case study work from the project feeds into the DC, and the excel
> > sheet of projects we can cover is also open for input from the wider
> > community (and has been shared on our DC mailing list, as well as
> > others). The project is a time-limited one, we are hoping that the DC
> > will remain as a forum for discussion and communication on these
> > initiatives long after our project captures snapshots of work at a
> > specific moment in time. So far through the DC, I have received input on
> > sources to include and mine for case studies via the mailing list and
> > input on literature I may not have yet read.
> >
> > In response to Bob's question on metrics - we are waiting for more data
> > to come in through case studies before fully crystallising our next
> > stages in research. The case study development process has been shedding
> > light on what kind of data is available on various connectivity projects
> > right now, whether there are monitoring and evaluation techniques that
> > are already in place, and how we should think about the same.
> >
> > I look forward to meeting you all at the IGF, and learning from the DC3
> > session as well as hopefully meeting you all in person as well.
> >
> > Regards,
> > Sharada Srinivasan
> > Research Fellow
> > Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition,
> > University of Pennsylvania.
> >
> >
> >
> > On 17 November 2016 at 08:03, Bob Frankston
> > <Bob19-0501 at bobf.frankston.com <mailto:Bob19-0501 at bobf.frankston.com>>
> > wrote:
> >
> >     I share your concerns. I did get a chance to speak to Michael Kende
> >     at IGF last year and felt that he was able to get a sense of
> >     connectivity outside of the traditional framing. But, overall, the
> >     sense is that, indeed, they are accepting the traditional idea that
> >     the Internet is basically just another telecom service and a series
> >     of (water) pipes rather than a new infrastructure. When I see
> >     mention of cost/benefit I wonder what metrics they are assuming.____
> >
> >     __ __
> >
> >     *From:*dc3-bounces at listas.altermundi.net
> >     <mailto:dc3-bounces at listas.altermundi.net>
> >     [mailto:dc3-bounces at listas.altermundi.net
> >     <mailto:dc3-bounces at listas.altermundi.net>] *On Behalf Of *Raoul
> Plommer
> >     *Sent:* Thursday, November 17, 2016 02:13
> >     *To:* Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity
> >     <dc3 at listas.altermundi.net <mailto:dc3 at listas.altermundi.net>>
> >     *Subject:* Re: [DC3] Dynamic Coalition on Innovative Approaches to
> >     Connecting the Unconnected____
> >
> >     __ __
> >
> >     Very interesting Nico. We'll have to keep a close eye on them and
> >     see that they are exposed in the way they should be.
> >
> >
> >     It really feels like they're stealing our thunder and making it
> >     profitable for those mega-corporations, instead of just giving
> >     people free access. We'd really want some person to maintain the
> >     database of networks and their solutions, once the material starts
> >     coming in. I wonder, if we'd actually be able to use some of their
> >     research and data for our more benevolent project.
> >
> >     -Raoul____
> >
> >     __ __
> >
> >     On 17 November 2016 at 09:04, Nicolás Echániz
> >     <nicoechaniz at altermundi.net <mailto:nicoechaniz at altermundi.net>>
> >     wrote:____
> >
> >         On 11/17/2016 03:45 AM, Raoul Plommer wrote:
> >         > "We collate information from different sources, organize and
> >         synthesize
> >         > them using academic standards, and provide this information in
> >         an easy,
> >         > searchable and digestible form. Our commitment to academic
> >         standards, as
> >         > well as the fact that we are the first such initiative to make
> >         an effort
> >         > to compile such information, makes our work complementary to
> >         the number
> >         > of ongoing efforts."
> >         >
> >         > Well, I'll be damned. We obviously need to work together.
> >
> >
> >         Well I wouldn't go that far :)
> >
> >
> >         I see Facebook, Verizon, World Economic Forum as Dynamic
> >         Coalition Speakers here:
> >         http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/documents/igf-meeting/igf-
> 2016/910-dc-connecting-the-unconnected-igf2016session/file
> >         <http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/documents/igf-meeting/igf-
> 2016/910-dc-connecting-the-unconnected-igf2016session/file>
> >
> >         and it makes me think: we can maybe share some work, but I don't
> >         exactly imagine us working together as in with a common
> perspective.
> >
> >
> >         I've been invited to a WEF organized event in Buenos Aires a
> >         week ago framed in the Global Connect Initiative and the
> >         Internet For All program. I can assure you there was almost no
> >         one there sharing perspectives with most of the people I know
> >         from our DC3. Lots of big telecos, banks, credit card companies,
> >         etc. The words may sound similar but the focus is very different.
> >
> >
> >         I guess it will be interesting to see what this Dynamnic
> >         Coalition will actually be working on in the future.
> >
> >
> >         Cheers,____
> >
> >         Nico
> >         _______________________________________________
> >         DC3 mailing list
> >         DC3 at listas.altermundi.net <mailto:DC3 at listas.altermundi.net>
> >         https://listas.altermundi.net/mailman/listinfo/dc3
> >         <https://listas.altermundi.net/mailman/listinfo/dc3>____
> >
> >     __ __
> >
> >
> >     _______________________________________________
> >     DC3 mailing list
> >     DC3 at listas.altermundi.net <mailto:DC3 at listas.altermundi.net>
> >     https://listas.altermundi.net/mailman/listinfo/dc3
> >     <https://listas.altermundi.net/mailman/listinfo/dc3>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Sharada
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > DC3 mailing list
> > DC3 at listas.altermundi.net
> > https://listas.altermundi.net/mailman/listinfo/dc3
> >
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