Community Networks as Models to Address Connectivity Gaps in Underserved Communities
The mounting evidence that current efforts to meet international goals for increasing Internet connectivity are likely to fall short has heightened interest in alternative connectivity models such as community networks. Already, there are many such initiatives globally taking differentiated approaches towards their setup and operation. This results in fragmented knowledge on the initiatives and systematic analysis of these models is limited. This study applies the People, Technology, Organization and Environment (TOE) framework to examine 21 community networks across countries in different continents to produce insights into their structure and components. The aim is to identify ways in which initiatives become sustainable. Data for the study were collected in two steps. First, qualitative data were gathered using in-depth interviews to produce a database of case studies. Second, the qualitative data were quantized, which enables the researchers to produce descriptive data. Overall, the study findings demonstrate the existence of several technology options, but the main technology used for community level connectivity is Wi-Fi. Initiatives also adopt different organizational approaches, but strategic partnerships are critical for the success of the initiatives. While strategic partners provide support for the initial set up lack of business models affect the sustainability of initiatives. Also, while environment-related issues (regulation, infrastructure) play a significant role, they are malleable as shown by changes in regulatory regimes. This study findings are useful to practitioners implementing community networks, researchers looking to gain more insights on these models and policy makers responsible for the telecommunication, and digital policies.
community networks, connectivity, digital divide, telecommunication, Internet
38 Information Dev. 603 (2022).