BB4All fostering relationsin the Sekhukhune region

posted Feb 9, 2011, 12:07 AM by   [ updated Feb 9, 2011, 12:18 AM ]

“In the olden days, in rural areas, men used to work in the mines or cities away from homes, and could only see their wives and children once a year. There was no means of communication or knowing their whereabouts and in this way, men left families in the care of their neighbours. Due to the lack of communication technologies, they could not even alert their families and neighbours when they had to come back home.”

Councillor L Leseloane, Mayor of the Elias Motswaledi Local Municipality, opened the Broadband for All (BB4All)-Sekhukhune workshop with this story, and stressed the value of technology in the lives of people today. He emphasised that the utilisation of modern technology provides for communication with loved ones. He also asserted that it can create employment and welcomed the contribution of the Department of Science and Technology and the CSIR Meraka Institute to the roll-out of the BB4All project in the Greater Sekhukhune area.

This workshop, held late last year at Loskop Valley Lodge, was organised by SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency), Limpopo. SEDA will assist the BB4All project with business training for the Village Operators (VOs) as well as facilitating collaboration between BB4All, local and district municipalities. The workshop aimed to foster relations with the Sekhukhune district municipalities and related stakeholders.

The Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) roll-out in Sekhukhune is expected to take place in 2011 and 2012. This region is one of three trial deployment areas where the WMN is currently being tested; the others are Nkangala and the John Taolo Gaetsewe districts in the Northern Cape. The WMN will be tested in these areas and a model for a sustainable rural community network infrastructure, operated and owned by a business in the community, will be established.

The workshop was well attended by various mayors and representatives of mayoral offices in the region, delegates from local government, the Premier’s Office, the Department of Education, Limpopo Tourism and many others.

The workshop participants voiced concerns about the sustainability of the network, electricity in the area, maintenance of the equipment and support that could hamper the execution of the project. Kobus Roux from the CSIR Meraka Institute said in response, “We have taken notes from the Nkangala region and looked at what needs to be improved. This is the very reason we organised this workshop, to start relationships at grass-roots level and work together with all partners to make this project a success.”

The last word came from the mayor of the Greater Sekhukhune District Municipality, Councillor M Magabe,“This is a great initiative and it will give the local people an opportunity to connect with the broader world and learn about technology.”
From left to right: Alida Veldsman, Daniel Mokhohlane, Issac Maredi, Councillor M Magabe, Councillor L Leseloane, Cebile Khanye, Madelein Van den Berg, Kobus Roux, Kagiso Chikane, Neil Oosthuizen, SEDA Limpopo Manager Mr Seshunkoane Mathabatha

USAASA delegates visit wireless mesh project

posted Dec 2, 2010, 10:35 PM by   [ updated Dec 2, 2010, 11:18 PM ]

From left to right:  Sam Skosana, Mlmamli Booi, KJ Aphane, Felicia Mphethi, Neil Oosthuizen, Trevor Nivi, Howard Gabriels

The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) has a keen interest in CSIR Meraka Institude, particularly because USAASA is exploring options of the best models for information and communications technology (ICT) to reach disadvantaged communities. The CSIR’s Village Operator (VO) model is one example of how ICT has been introduced to rural Mpumalanga.

On 12 November, 2010, Trevor Nivi, senior researcher and project director of USAASA and two consultants, Daniel Espitia and Mlamli Booi, visited the Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) project in the Nkangala Region. The purpose of the visit was to inform the study by the consultants on developing a national universal access and service strategy for USAASA to be launched in March 2011.

The tour started at the Renosterkop high site, where Trevor and his team expressed their interest in the project, particularly the partnership model between the BB4All team and the Nkangala Community Radio Station. BB4All provides free Internet to the radio station and in exchange, they share the tower for connectivity to the Siyabuswa area, thereby supporting the WMN backbone.

The visit was detoured as the VO in Verena was unavailable. The team then proceeded to Siyabuswa where Felicity Mphethi displayed in full how the mesh network works and what services she provides to her community. The team took a look at the installation in the computer lab of the Kwandebele Science Combined school in the area, particularly how the VoIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone system works and the speed of the Internet connection.

As USAASA is interested in monitoring how the network is used, and its applications and bandwidth, the team was curious about how usage is monitored, and whether every computer is monitored individually or just the gateway. It was explained that the model used in these projects focuses on connectivity and letting the partners (e.g. education) control their own local computer network and usage.

The USAASA team was impressed by the WMN project, which bodes well for future collaboration,” said Kobus Roux, project manager of the WMN project.

The “meshing” of ideas for rural enterprise development and innovation

posted Oct 20, 2010, 1:34 AM by   [ updated Oct 21, 2010, 7:01 AM by Kobus Roux ‎(Broadband4All)‎ ]


The Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) project team of the CSIR Meraka Institute ventured out to Loospruit Wineries near Nkangala, Mpumalanga, on 13 October 2010. to facilitate a Rural Enterprise Development and Innovation (REDI) Workshop. This is under the auspices of collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Microsoft South Africa. The workshop was aimed at bringing together ideas and notes from different stakeholders involved in rural development and ICT to contribute to the role of the Village Operators (VOs), and find ways in which the different stakeholders can coordinate to make this project a success.

Meraka established a model of internet connectivity using an innovative combination of wireless mesh technology and free and open source software to connect rural communities to the internet at a lower cost. The network is owned and managed by the VOs, who will focus on integrating different layers of economic needs and opportunities within their community to ensure that the WMN project becomes economically viable.

The project entails testing the WMN in three areas: The Nkangala District, the Sekhukhune District and the John Taolo Gaetsewe District. As of date, there are 19 VOs operating in different sub-areas in the Nkangala district.

These VOs deal on an everyday basis with the technology and work in a business environment. The VOs manage the network in their areas, manage their clusters (connected facilities) and clients, and assist with ICT requirements of their communities.

The overriding challenge that these ambitious young people face is the lack of adequate training across the board about ICT. They often struggle to help clients as they do not have sufficient knowledge on the issue at hand. Shortage of equipment such as extra computers and fax machines for the high throughput of feet that they experience daily, has also become a big challenge because they often disappoint people and lose customers.

They do however see great potential in improving their communities with this technology and believe if all individuals come to the party, that they can grow their own businesses and benefit fellow villagers. Individuals no longer need to travel long distances to metropolitan areas to access governmental services such as home affairs or banking services; these services can be done on-line, saving time, money and other resources.

At the workshop, the VOs called upon the different government and private stakeholders and the project group to support and groom them. By helping to enhance their skills and providing the necessary infrastructure to enable them to run their businesses efficiently, the VOs can respond to the most important task at hand: To service their communities.

This REDI workshop is a step to building the bridge between the different stakeholders involved in the project. The workshop contributed to information gathering for the drawing up of models on how to execute such projects, how to tackle problems and exploit opportunities to eventually build sustainable ICT businesses.

Other participants at the workshop included Dept of Education, Dept of Trade & Industry, SEDA, Local Economic Development from Nkangala, Dept of Communications, Ungana Afrika, and the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA).

For more information on the project, visit

New member of team

posted Oct 20, 2010, 12:47 AM by Administrator Broadband4All

This is to announce Bonang Tselane has joined the team as of 10 October 2010. Bonang will be helping with some of the communication and reporting aspects of this initiative. Looking forward to see many more articles flowing... Welcome Bonang!

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