Action steps: The need to create a community wireless cooperative
In the absence of strong business cases for traditional network expansion, community wireless mesh networks have been successfully implemented in other industrialised and developing nations to address major barriers to internet adoption and universal connectivity. But deployments of community-owned networks often require outside support, including capital grants or technical assistance. Rather than relying on external mechanisms for assistance, a cooperative seeding organisation formed in-country could continuously provide the necessary support for multiple community networks, and act as an intermediary between the communities and high-level stakeholders such as wholesale internet service providers (ISPs), equipment vendors and the government.
In order to create such a cooperative, ASORCOM has proposed the formation of the Community Wireless Cooperative (CWC) with the aim of promoting a sustainable, low-cost approach to expanding internet connectivity to rural, remote and underserved areas of Myanmar.
At the moment there is only one community network in Myanmar and ASORCOM encourages and supports setting up many others. When there are many autonomous community networks in the country, they will effectively form a new digitally linked constituency of alternative network operators that provide ICT services to their communities and catalyse new social and economic development opportunities.
The new “information constituencies” will also be in a position to represent the interests of Myanmar’s digitally underserved communities and contribute to policy recommendations for the design and implementation of Myanmar’s ICT infrastructure and proposed universal service fund.