Digital Life

How A Rural Community Made Its Own Phone Network In South Africa

This short documentary describes how the people of Mankosi in rural South Africa established their own telecommunications network called Zenzeleni in partnership with University of Western Cape Department of Computer Science.

Mankosi encompasses 12 villages with around of 3,500 people. Among the biggest challenges is that there is no electricity to charge cell phones and that people have very limited funds to spend on mobile airtime.

The solution was a solar-powered mesh network using scattered node devices hosted in selected households. Local calls are free, calls to other cell phones are discounted, and the fee for charging phones is low.

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About the author

Solana Larsen

Solana Larsen

Solana Larsen is co-author of the cookbook "Recipes for a Digital Revolution". She writes a newsletter for Web We Want and helped create this website. Formerly, she was the managing editor of Global Voices Online. Solana is a Danish-Puerto Rican journalist and digital activist.

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