Type of work: Communication
Macha is a small and resource limited village in rural Zambia. Since 2003 remarkable progress is taking shape in Macha. Since that time, the village is connected to Internet via a VSAT satellite connection, integrated with a holistic and respectful vision based upon developing the potential of the local community. Thus the local community plays a major role in the development process.
To operate the communications network a cooperative not-for profit company was set up, Macha Works, with its ICT unit LinkNet, owned by the community.
Overall the Macha approach appears very successful and is now being scaled up to many more villages in Zambia. Macha itself is in a next stage of development. It is evolving into a center of expertise with training, talent development, innovation and experimentation in the fields of agriculture, alternative energy, appropriate types of entrepreneurship, and novel approaches in ICT fitting the African context. A cooperation with the University of Zambia in Lusaka is evolving with education, applied research, and practical work taking place in rural Macha. Hundreds of new employment positions have been created since Macha Works started its activities.
Connecting rural communities in Africa is quite a challenge. Communication and energy infrastructures are lacking. Connectivity through satellite links are extremely expensive. Mobile Internet might be an alternative in the medium term. Introduction of Virtual Network Operations to share costs can support reaching the marginal, rural markets.
The value of the holistic approach driven by connectivity has been recognized and the development in Macha is now supported by organizations and authorities in Zambia, Netherlands, the Global Research Association and European partners. Connectivity appears to be a powerful tool to empower the local community to guide their own development. In addition, two valuable additional effects should be mentioned. First, Internet can help to preserve and share the cultural heritage. Second, communities in rural Africa become part of and thereby enrich the global community.
This paper describes the approach taken, the obstacles encountered (logistics, finance, durability of equipment in harsh conditions, regulation issues etc.), the lessons learned as well as the plans for next steps.