About connectivity crusading and the spectrum of a telecommunication revolution

July - 13 - 2012

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Following the booming market of telecommunications on the African continent, the management and allocation of the wireless spectrum providing these services has become a hot topic for discussion.
“Spectrum is a huge social and economic enabler. Is it important to get it out there so the country can get value, or to make the most money out of it?”
This question is posed by Steve Song, self proclaimed “connectivity crusader” and Shuttleworth Foundation Telecommunications and Connectedness Fellow, during an interview with the tech magazine “Brainstorm” about the current and future situation of the South African Telecommunications.
Steve is working to provide thought leadership on, and practical implementations of, access to communications infrastructure and its impact on social and economic innovation and growth.

As a part of his work he founded “The Village Telco”  – an initiative to build low-cost community telephone network hardware and software that can be set up in minutes anywhere in the world.
In Steve’s opinion the most important thing is to allow more players access into the market, underlining the current development as critical times for innovation and inviting new kind of entrants access to the spectrum. On his blog many possibilities.net.” he argues:
“Evidence from North America and Europe suggests that even in urban areas, not much more than 10% of spectrum is in use. One can reasonably suppose that even less spectrum is currently in use in South Africa. This represents an opportunity for South Africa to radically change the connectivity landscape by allowing innovative wireless solutions to spur competition and to deliver affordable access where it was previously impractical.”

Many investors stress that the spectrum should be regulated towards optimized profit while others argue that it potentially could to be opened up towards more public applications and welcome opportunistic re-use and innovative solutions.

Whether the “spectrum” discussion is truly about innovators promoting social development at one end and bottleneck regulators spinning profit at the other is hereby left open as another topic for discussion.
However from a Frugal Digital perspective the examples posed by Steve Song helps us to formulate a critical question:

How can Frugal Digital help to exemplify low-cost examples of wireless solutions that allow “new players” affordable network connectivity and is open towards local innovative applications?

Image: “Spectropedia” – Steve Songs offers an interactive overview of the current spectrum distribution on his blog (http://manypossibilities.net/spectrum/)

Martin Tai Lyhne Jensen

Martin describes himself as a humanist by nature, creative generalist by education and Interaction Designer by profession. Martin is interested in hands-on people centered exploration of technology, social action, and the critical application of design to prototype unbelievable ideas into powerful reality. As part of the Frugal Digital Research Group Martin is seeking to demystify and democratize technology - and pilot it towards the inspired imagination and skillful hands of individuals and communities who are ready to create the change they believe in. Martin has recently returned to Copenhagen from Cape Town (ZA) after collaborating with local grassroot innovators, around new use of mobile technologies, to increase the organizational capacity of young activist communities.

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