DigitalNWT partner wins international award for Nimble community networking kit
January 28, 2021
Photos provided by Eric Nitschke, Michael McNally, Maria Alvarez and Ayush Taneja.
DigitalNWT has been working with Wakoma since 2020 to co-design, build and deploy small-scale, portable wireless mesh networks to highlight the potential of community-led internet development in the NWT.
Working with six different communities across the Northwest Territories, the collaborators, based in Canada, Mexico, Czech Republic and South Africa, planned and built 13 demonstration units.
Participating teams in the communities will be able to video and voice chat with each other, upload and stream videos, and support digital education across the community, even in areas where there is no existing internet connection.
“Each of the communities now have the tools to manage and expand their own networks — both online and offline… we look forward to seeing what they decide to do next,” says Eric Nitschke from Wakoma.
In November 2021 the IEEE, or the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, convened its first Connecting the Unconnected Summit, which brought together “experts and thought leaders on the issue of internet connectivity and the digital divide”. The Summit also served as the award ceremony for the inaugural Connecting the Unconnected Challenge.
Wakoma entered into the Challenge with their submission titled “The Nimble – An Open Source, Portable, and Offline-first Wireless Mesh Network for and by Underserved Communities”. On November 3rd, Wakoma was announced the winner of the Best overall Proof-of-Concept award.
Nitschke, who currently lives in Czech Republic, first designed the Nimble to make it easier for communities to get their own network up and running, using hardware they might already have, or can buy locally.
“At least 3 billion people are still unconnected or under-connected, and being increasingly left behind as we see the value of the internet rising every year,” says Nitschke.
“Most of the world is actually within reach of the internet, but it's often too expensive to use, the digital skills aren't there, and the online content and services aren't in local languages and relevant to local communities. We can change this by enabling communities to build and share their own internet infrastructure and the content that goes on it…. ”
Although the Nimble stands as tall as a standard computer tower, all of the parts to hold the components together can be 3D printed locally.
“Grab a router, switch, server and access points, print the rack and shelves, put it together with a few screws and you’re off” says Nitschke.
“Of course it’s not so simple, but we’re working hard to make this easier…soon we’ll have a site up that walks people through the whole process in detail. Over time, we hope this project will bring down costs and bring more people online. This is exactly what we’re trying to do through our work with DigitalNWT.”
Email email@example.com if you are interested in attending DigitalNWT courses