By Kristin Kalning
Vinjeru Mumba had heard a lot about TV white space (TVWS) technology, which uses unused broadcasting frequencies to deliver broadband access. So in late March, he joined 21 others in Lilongwe, Malawi for a TVWS training and simulation.
“The training I received was such an eye-opener, and there is much more to learn,” said Mumba, the National IT Coordinator for SOS Children’s Villages in Malawi, “It has brought me a lot of ideas that can now be achieved that were not previously possible. All in all, this is a great technology.”
TVWS, called “Super Wi-Fi,” is garnering buzz for its ability to travel long distances and penetrate obstacles like trees and walls. Nine NetHope member organizations – SOS Children’s Villages, Action Aid, Concern, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children, Water Aid, and World Vision – sent representatives to Lilongwe for the exercise.
The goal of the training and simulation was to introduce TVWS technology as part of a standard kit in disaster response, and build capacity among NGO ICT staff in Malawi. It was coordinated by Microsoft TVWS service provider C3, and taught by Adaptrum, which makes TVWS base stations and other equipment.
Students first learned the nuts and bolts of TVWS, which is ideal for reaching off-the-grid locations, and potentially, as a quick and affordable means to establish connectivity in an emergency setting.
After two days in the classroom, students moved into a simulation exercise – configuring the equipment, lining it up, installing it, and providing connectivity. For Mumba, this was the highlight: “My favorite part was the designing of the network, and the practical part, to see how it works.”
After the simulation came a mini-test, and then a certificate for participation. “The training and simulation exercise were amazing, and participants were very enthusiastic about the potential for reaching poor, underserved regions – which is where many NGOs operate," said Isaac Kwamy, NetHope's Director of Global Programs for Disaster Preparedness and Response.
Several of the trained technicians will be added to the NetHope Emergency Response Deployment roster. And if there’s an actual disaster? “The training made it clear that TVWS can be one more solution for establishing rapid connectivity after a disaster. And now we have an even bigger roster of qualified technicians to draw upon,” said Kwamy.
The training and simulation exercise went so smoothly that NetHope, in partnership with Microsoft, will also pre-position two TVWS kits at the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot warehouse in Dubai for possible use in future emergencies.
As for Mumba, he’s sold on TVWS. “In my opinion, I think the technology will make a big difference in the country by connecting the rural areas that do not have internet or affordable internet connection,” he said.