Meraka Institute signs MoU with LinkNet of Zambia

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(Front) Phil Hendricks (CSIR) and Gertjan van Stam (LinkNet) after the signing of the MoU
(Back) Karel Matthee and Kobus Roux (Meraka Institute)


The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between LinkNet Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society Limited of Zambia and the Meraka Institute on 17 August 2007 is another significant step towards the creation of low-cost, wireless connectivity in Africa. LinkNet has as its objective to establish internet communication facilities in rural communities in Zambia to further holistic empowerment and capacity building of institutions and rural people. The Meraka Institute is a national research centre managed by the CSIR.

The purposes of the MoU are to co-operate in research at LinkNet sites; to create broad awareness of the needs for internet access in rural Africa; to strive for development and publication of open source solutions for deployment in Africa; to develop a centre of experience on rural information and communications technology (ICT) development and training in Zambia; and to develop research projects to gain a better understanding of realities in rural Africa.

The MoU follows a hands-on training workshop with LinkNet hosted at the Meraka Institute during June 2007 to share knowledge on the planning and deployment of a wireless mesh network. The institute released a do-it-yourself mesh guide providing step-by-step instructions to assist the LinkNet team, who also visited the Peebles Valley community in Mpumalanga where the institute helped establish a mesh network in 2005.

Mesh networking provides many benefits to rural communities that wish to become connected, including reliable, easy to deploy infrastructure at a significantly lower cost than current telecommunication alternatives. Members of these communities can install and operate their own networks.

Within one week after the workshop, the LinkNet team was able to set up a mesh network in the rural settlement of Macha in Zambia's Southern Province, providing wireless internet connectivity to ten buildings of the local hospital. Implementation challenges experienced were resolved between LinkNet and the Meraka Institute and lead to improvements in the mesh guide.

Commenting after the signing, Phil Hendricks (Executive Director: CSIR National Research Centres) noted, “I am happy to sign this MoU as it provides evidence of our collaboration with Zambia and a platform for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals through ICT.”

Kobus Roux (competency area manager of the Meraka Institute), confirms this sentiment, “We are happy that our association with LinkNet has been formalised. We look forward to interact with other organisations in Africa who are seeking alternative solutions to provide low-cost, wireless connectivity in under-serviced rural areas.”