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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.