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A Recipe for Digital Inclusion and Wasabi Molé, a Workshop Proposal

on Wed, 06/02/2010 - 4:11pm

Here is panel workshop which I've proposed for the upcoming International Summit for Community Wireless Networks, to be held in Vienna, Austria this August.  The conference will feature keynote speaker Vic Hayes, the "Father of Wifi," Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative (and founding member of WasabiNet inspiration, and Joel Kelsey of the Consumer's Union.  Fingers & toes crossed that I get accepted ...

"The challenge of bringing Broadband to underserved populations is often defined at a high level, i.e. in terms of media policy reform, direct economic stimulus, or advocacy for appropriate technology. This approach tends to be algorithmic, seeking to identify underlying processes that cause the problem, and then proposing means to change or mitigate the adverse processes. A recipe, in comparison, is a list of ingredients with instructions for preparation and mixing. A recipe can't tackle a complex, multivariate problem over the large scale, but its simplicity can make it effective over a smaller scale, especially in cases where available resources are limited and adaptability is essential.
WasabiNet is a small, low-cost Wi-fi mesh in a mixed-income, multi-ethnic neighborhood in St. Louis, USA, serving 50 users daily. Although much planning went into its inception in 2008, the approach for sustaining WasabiNet is now a recipe. The equipment is low-cost yet robust, having been designed for marinas and camp grounds. Start-up funding came from grants, as we also rehabilitate donated computers and provide them to low-income users. The cabling and antenna mounts are familiar to any electrician. Community participation and subscriptions are enhanced by maintaining local updates/news on a bi-lingual captive portal, and by providing an MP3 music stream for local Latino businesses. Payments and invoicing occur via Paypal, in person, and ultimately with barcoded keychain tags for users without a bank account. The mixing of ingredients, i.e. the logistics of customer support, maintenance, subscriber management, while perhaps unsustainable across an entire city, often simplify to a bike ride across the neighborhood."
Here is the proposal page itself.