This intake of 25 FET learners will receive their specialist training at the University of Zululand in Richards Bay under the leadership of Professor Matthew Adigun. The wireless mesh networks course which forms part of this specialist training, has been specially developed by the CSIR Meraka Institute, under the leadership of research group leader Dr Ntsibane Ntlatlapa.
Dr Ntlalapa states, "We believe that computer literacy and access to computers are fundamental to breaking the frontiers of poverty and providing education in an equitable manner. In addition, we have come to realise that community wireless mesh networks can also provide a solid technology base to solve many of the connectivity challenges faced by the rural regions of Africa."
The training initiative aims to support and extend wireless mesh technologies by utilising national training institutions to transfer the necessary knowledge and skills to remote rural communities in South Africa. Learners at tertiary education institutions will be taught how to deploy community wireless mesh networks and will also be supported in establishing these networks at their places of learning and their home communities. Monitoring and evaluation during and after the training will be done by researcher Dr Thato Foko of the CSIR Meraka Institute.
The CSIR has actively been working on technology solutions addressing the challenge of connecting 450 million rural people in Africa to one another and the rest of the world. The rural areas of Africa are not a viable market for telecommunications operators using conventional technology and business models, due to the low income per capita, low population density, scarcity or absence of public facilities such as reliable electricity supply, as well as difficult topographical conditions (e.g. lakes, rivers, hills, mountains) in rural areas which render the construction of wired telecommunication networks very costly.
These issues are addressed by adopting a philosophy of community-owned networks where local economic activity is created. This approach also addresses the technology solution in the form of mesh networking, which offers features such as self-formation and self-healing.
The CSIR Meraka Institute has, over a number of years, embarked on setting up outdoor trial mesh networks in communities such as Pretoria, Mamelodi and Peebles Valley in Mpumalanga. These trial networks have formed an excellent platform to test new research ideas, and compare and analyse existing mesh networking technologies.
Through support for training in wireless mesh networking, a critical mass of support can be developed. Networks can also grow and develop as more and more people become acquainted with the technology.
Dr Ntsibane Ntlatlapa
Tel: 012 841 4421