Connecting Indigenous & Mountain Communities

Community Network Xchange (CNX) entered its seventh year in 2023. Community Network Xchange Asia-Pacific was first organised in 2017, focusing on bringing together community network practitioners and enthusiasts of community-driven Internet connectivity to exchange ideas and serve as catalysts for the grassroots connectivity movement. CNX 2023 was a collaborative effort by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), Internet Society (ISOC), Council for Social & Digital Development (CSDD) in partnership with APNIC Foundation, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP), Royal Global University (RGU), Association for Progressive Communication (APC), Hughes Communications India Private Limited, World Summit Awards (WSA), TATA Institute of Social Sciences Guwahati (TISS), Wireless for Communities (W4C), and Art and Collective for Digital Empowerment (A-CODE).

The theme for the 7th edition of CNX in 2023 was “Connecting Indigenous and Mountain Communities”, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. It was a two-day event that took place in Guwahati, Assam, one of the eight provinces/states in the North East Region of India. The event provided a platform for the stories of dedicated individuals contributing to improving digital connectivity in challenging geographical terrains and emphasised how their unwavering commitment and passion played a pivotal role in extending internet access to their respective communities.

Furthermore, CNX 2023 focused on addressing last-mile accessibility, connectivity, and services for indigenous, tribal, hilly, and mountain communities. The event showcased the stories, challenges, and successes of diverse community networks from different parts of the world. Through these events, the aim was to bridge the network divide in hilly, tribal, indigenous, and mountain communities and connect communities that had remained unconnected. This involved promoting different variations of community networks, highlighting the role of women in community networks, and exploring the involvement of telecom service providers and ISPs in extending connectivity to the last mile.

Inaugural Plenary Session – ‘Connecting the Indigenous & Mountain Communities towards Sustainable & Inclusive Digital Society in the Asia-Pacific’


  • Atsuko Okuda, Regional Director, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
  • Sylvia Cadena, Acting Chief Executive Officer, APNIC Foundation
  • Bikram Shrestha, President, Nepal Internet Foundation & Founder / Past President, Internet Society, Nepal Chapter
  • Hasina Kharbih, Founder & Chairperson, Impulse NGO Network, Meghalaya, India
  • Dharmendra Singh, Vice President – New Business, Hughes Communications, India
  • Carlos Rey Moreno, Co-Lead Local Networks: Policy and Strategy, Association for Progressive Communication (APC)
  • Prof. Sasmita Samanta, Founder & Chairperson, Sustainable Outreach and Universal Leadership Limited (SOUL)
  • Akanksha Sharma, Program Officer, ITU
  • Prof. (Dr.) S.P. Singh, Vice Chancellor, Royal Global University, Guwahati, Assam

The inaugural session of CNX brought together a diverse panel to discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding access and connectivity in mountainous and hilly regions. Atsuko Okuda highlighted the importance of partnerships in achieving connectivity goals, while Sylvia Cadena addressed the challenges faced by organisations like APNIC Foundation. Bikram Shreshtha emphasised the role of civil society in connecting remote areas, citing his work in Nepal. Hasina Kharbih underscored the need for actionable government policies in India’s northeast. Dharmendra Singh called for telecommunications companies to revisit their policies, while Carlos Rey-Moreno advocated for alternative network systems driven by communities. Sasmita Samanta stressed the importance of community learning, and Akanksha Sharma discussed ITU’s efforts in mapping connectivity challenges. The panellists also discussed coordination, collaboration, and cooperation as essential elements in addressing connectivity issues. The session concluded with Osama Manzar highlighting positive developments, including ITU’s presence in Delhi and increased private sector interest in supporting community networks, emphasising the importance of connectivity, capacity, and community in bridging the digital divide.

The inaugural session was moderated by Osama Manzar, Founder Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Panel Discussion – Access and Connectivity in Mountain and Hilly Regions: How Accessible is it today?

The panel discussion on “Access and Connectivity in Mountain and Hilly Regions” brought together a diverse group of experts to explore the current state of accessibility and connectivity in these challenging terrains. Here’s a summary of the key points discussed by each speaker:

  • N Jairam from Hughes Communications India highlighted the difficulties faced in mountainous areas regarding technological availability and government services. He stressed the importance of proper power operations such as solar electricity and satellites for the adoption of sophisticated technology but acknowledged the challenges in accessing them, particularly in rural regions.
  • Michael Ginguld of AirJaldi – Rural Broadband Pvt. Ltd, India, emphasised four critical elements for improving connectivity in remote areas: technical expertise, speed and stability of connections, sustainability, and affordability. He emphasised the need for proper planning and economic viability, citing the desire for internet speeds above 20 MBPS in India.
  • Bikram Shrestha shared the success story of the Khunde Community Club in Nepal, which aimed to provide internet access to improve education in a region with limited resources. He highlighted the positive impacts of internet connectivity, including access to opportunities and marketing through social media platforms.
  • Hasina Kharbhih, founder of Impulse NGO Network, discussed the link between internet outages and risky behaviour leading to human trafficking. She also emphasised the role of internet access in promoting local artisans and sustainable living, particularly for indigenous women.
  • BC Nayak, CTO of Reliance Jio, discussed the challenges of digitization and connectivity in hilly regions. He emphasised the importance of internet access for the younger generation and highlighted recent developments in extending connectivity to remote areas, including three districts in Assam. Nayak stressed the need for improved infrastructure and community collaboration to bridge the connectivity gap.

Overall, the panel highlighted the significance of internet access in mountainous and hilly regions for education, economic development, and community empowerment, while also acknowledging the challenges and the need for innovative solutions and government support.


Community Networks for Social Good


Online Conference November 15, 17 & 23, 2021

An initiative of



Getting online remains a challenge for billions across the globe. In 2020, the COVID- 19 pandemic led to an inevitable surge in the use of digital technologies due to nationwide lockdowns. People and organizations all over the world adjusted to the new normal – with meetings going completely online and office work shifting to the home. At the same time, many rural and low-income communities around the world lacked reliable and affordable access. Wireless access rapidly became a basic need rather than a ‘nice to have’. The lack of affordable access was an issue as it prevented people from having access to a range of digital services – from public health and information to education.

Today, nearly half the world still has no Internet access. The majority are in developing and least developed countries, and for them the need to be online is even more urgent. In recent years, community networks have played a significant role in connecting and empowering rural and underprivileged populations and providing them with access to information, education, healthcare and so much more.

In 2017, Digital Empowerment Foundation and the Internet Society (ISOC) organized the first Community Network Exchange (CNX). Since its inception, CNX has played a crucial part in understanding the role, relevance, and evolution of community networks in different contexts. CNX 2020 took place amid a new pandemic-induced reality that explored the need – and significance – of community networks and the various dimensions related to meaningful access.

In 2021, the subsequent waves of the pandemic intensified the fundamental issue of lack of access. Much of the pandemic’s management from vaccinations to movement tracking depends on being digitally connected. As a result, the vulnerability for literally billions of people has increased further. With this in mind, the theme for CNX 2021 is “Community Networks for Social Good”. Within this overall theme, session sub-themes will reflect on the importance of community networks in accelerating reach and providing help to the communities to respond to COVID-19 and also to benefit from digital opportunities. It will also explore the experiences and challenges faced by community networks during the pandemic.

Objectives & Methods

CNX 2021 will run online on November 15, 17 and 23rd 2021. To ensure maximum engagement, each day of the conference will only have two focused sessions, running for a total of 135 minutes. The sessions will be held using Zoom and will be broadcast live on a number of diverse platforms including Livestream, Facebook Live and YouTube.

To maintain participants interest and engagement, each session will have three components:

A moderated crisp panel discussion for 30 minutes with 3 speakers
A 10 min segment called “Voices of Social Change” which will include short videos from community networks around the region and beyond
A curated free-flowing open mic session to cater for questions and answers on the session topic.

The second session will run in the same format, and it will be preceded by a short break. The conference has been structured to promote substantive discussion among the stakeholders. The sessions will be delivered by experts and stakeholders, focused on sharing research, evidence-based practices, and policy recommendations with specific implications for action.

Voice of Social Change Segment

Each session will have a 10-minute segment called “Voices of Social Change” which will feature short videos from locations around the region (and beyond) where community networks have helped bring about social change. The segment will cover human interest stories, regional stories, and impact stories in English and regional languages.

Each day of the virtual conference will run for 2 hours 15 minutes in total (135mins). The online platform will go live 10 mins prior to the daily start time to allow participants and speakers to connect, and to ensure a timely start to proceedings.

CNX 2021 Format

05 Min Welcome and Introduction of first topic

30 Min Panel discussion for speakers & moderator

10 Min Voices of Social Change
15 Min Question & Answer

Break (10 Min)- Video Display

05 Min Introduction of second topic

30 Min Panel discussion for speakers & moderator
10 Min Voices of Social Change
15 Min Question & Answer

5 Min Wrap-up/Close of Day

0500 – 0715 UTC
1030-1245 IST   1200-1415 BKK 1000-1215 ISB

1300-1515 SIN 1800-2015 SUV 1600-1815 SYD

CNX 2021 Theme

Day 1 15th November 2021
Opening of the Conference

Session 1

The Pandemic, Digital Dependence and the Unconnected: Challenges and Opportunities

Panelists: Attached separately

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated – or perhaps forced – the uptake of digital solutions, tools, and services, speeding up the global transition towards a digital economy. However, it has also exposed the wide chasm between the connected and the unconnected, revealing just how far behind many are on digital uptake. This gap exists within and between segments of the population e.g., minority and rural communities, as well as in different sectors e.g., education and health, and has impacted developed and developing countries. This session will explore how the region has coped- or tried to cope, and the digital gaps that prevail. It will also look at how complementary access solutions such as community networks have helped communities during the pandemic, and highlight some strategies, best practices and learnings for the future.

Session 2

Community Networks: Empowering Education and Health Care

Panelists: Attached separately

In the field of education and learning, disruptions in the delivery of lessons to students and the shift to online learning have made the digital educational divide more pronounced. According to UNESCO, around 1.5 billion learners are affected by school closure caused by COVID-19. This emphasizes the point that while the pandemic is new to many of us, the digital divide has been with us for quite some time now. This session will discuss ways and means of accelerating online learning and how initiatives such as community networks can be used to promote education in underserved communities in both structured and unstructured ways. This session will also discuss the role of digital tools and services for health care providers and members of the community during the pandemic, and the need for people to have affordable access to connectivity. It will also explore how health care providers in rural areas have leveraged community networks to deal with the pandemic.

Day 2 17th November 2021

Special Session: Synergies between Community Radio and Community Networks

Panelists: Attached separately

Both Community Networks (CN) and Community Radios (CR) are by the community, for the community and with the community. Both CR and CN broadcast or facilitate infrastructure for information sharing. CRs and CNs also enable huge community participation and can often be found in localised (and underserved) remote areas. Both CRs and CNs are people technologies.

Operationally, while CRs produce lots of content for broadcasting, CNs allow the Internet to reach the hands of the people and open access to information and content. Both CRs and CNs use the public spectrum for public use. Interestingly, besides producing large amounts of locally relevant public content, CRs also use radio towers. Such radio towers are also a primary requirement of CNs to enable localised Internet connectivity using WiFi.

During the first CNX APAC held in 2017, the synergies between CRs and CNs were explored, and have continued to be discussed in subsequent events. The following key points emerged from those discussions between CR and CN practitioners:

  • Community radios are already present in the most difficult and remote Established manpower at community radios can be used for community networks.
  • Since community radio works within a local community, providers understand the local dialect and language, which is crucial for community network providers as
  • Community radio stations can provide a wide range of content and services to community network Community network providers and community radio station owners can collaborate and work together to produce content of local interest.
  • Community network providers can seek help from community radio station audiences and create and deliver the content on the basis of their A community network could act as a repository for content in their server that radio stations already put out.
  • Community radio stations find it difficult to sustain themselves since subscription models are There is a possibility that community radio subscriptions could include access to the Internet through community networks.
  • Technical assistance is still a challenge since these rural areas have a dearth of experienced

This session will be an interactive discourse on the synergies of Community Networks and Community Radio in association with The Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD). This special session will be focused on the ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of CN and CR. The two hour session is divided into three parts:

Session 2 (20 Minutes): CR & CN Case Stories: Discussing and showcasing a couple of case studies of CR+CN in terms of their modus operandi and execution on the ground. The examples would be that of:Session 1 (45 minutes): Why CN and CR are Twins: Discussing the synergies CR and CNs have between them, and examples of their impact on the local (and typically unconnected) community.

  • Barefoot College in Tilonia Where the entire campus is WiFi and they have Community Radio and they both work in tandem
  • DREAM project of APC and DEF: Where content and training material developed on misinformation and through the use of Chatbot and Community radio outreach took place at the time of Covid19 How Meo Community in Haryana in the district of Nuh using Community Networks to connect themselves and also use Mewat Community radio to reach out to villagers
  • Session 3 (45 minutes): The How and Future of CN and CR Collaboration: Further exploring how CR and CN complement each other, how they can operate together, how they can leverage each other, what are the building blocks of working in synergy, and how they could work together in the future to provide enhanced information and content for local

Session 3 (45 minutes): The How and Future of CN and CR Collaboration: Further exploring how CR and CN complement each other, how they can operate together, how they can leverage each other, what are the building blocks of working in synergy, and how they could work together in the future to provide enhanced information and content for local communities.

Resource Persons: Philomena Gnanapragasam; Rajnesh Singh and Osama Manzar

Day 3 23rd November 2021

Session 3

Community Networks: Media, Misinformation and Misuse

Panelists: Attached separately

Access to credible information is crucial during crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this, messaging apps and digital platforms have been asked by Governments to help disseminate accurate information related to the pandemic. However, without a proportionate response to provide the same information through other channels, including traditional media, those who have no access to digital technologies struggle with differentiating between fact and fiction. This is more important as often hearsay comes into play in many communities. This session will discuss how community networks in underserved areas can be leveraged to disrupt misinformation and how traditional media – including community radio – can be leveraged.

Session 4

Rural Changemakers and Innovators: Community Networks as a Catalyst for Digital Transformation

Panelists: Attached separately

Digital Transformation is on the agenda for most policymakers, but that is typically focused around urban centres and industries. Developing countries have also put much emphasis into rural development programmes, yet these do not always appear to prioritise leveraging digital connectivity. This points to an obvious disconnect. Community Networks can serve as a foundation for helping build the digital economy at a very local level. They can also serve as a catalyst for digital transformation by empowering the local community to embrace digital technologies in their locality e.g. with agriculture and other local industries that may be present. Equally, Community Networks can also serve as a rural makerspace, where the community can learn new skills and be innovators in their own right. This session will explore how Community Networks can be leveraged to create the next generation of rural change makers and innovators.

Co-Conveners of CNX-APAC 2021

Rajnesh Singh, Regional Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Internet Society and

Osama Manzar, Cofounder & Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation

Gender, Connectivity and Access: Role of Women in Community Networks

The second session of Community Networks Xchange focused on discussing the pivotal role of women in community networks. The session aimed to explore their contributions, challenges, and the potential of gender-inclusive connectivity to bring about transformative change. The panel featured speakers from various backgrounds, each offering unique insights into the intersection of gender, technology, and community development. Here’s a summary of the key points discussed by each speaker:

  • Mia Perez from Switch in the Philippines emphasised the importance of empowering women and gender non-conforming individuals in community networks. She discussed Switch’s mission and efforts to address technical aspects, power supply concerns, and aligning objectives with APNIC. Mia is actively involved in research to enhance women’s involvement through affordable technical solutions, training, and certification.
  • Isha Suri from the Centre for Internet and Society in India highlighted the need for women’s self-representation and advocacy to address their marginalisation. She discussed the impact of gender restrictions on mobility, access to skills, and community involvement, emphasising the importance of better-designed regulations and gender-aware policies for ensuring women’s access to public technological resources.
  • Amrita Choudhury, Chair of AprIGF and Director of CCAOI stressed the significance of women’s representation considering their substantial portion of the global population. She discussed the value of networks and communities in empowering women, emphasising their role in the modern world.
  • Rajshree Joshi from BAIF Development Research Foundation highlighted the paradox of women’s significant use of social networks and technology alongside their vulnerability in online spaces. She shared an anecdote illustrating the importance of internet connectivity in generating employment, particularly during the pandemic.

Overall, the session provided a comprehensive exploration of the role of women in community networks, covering empowerment, representation, policy implications, and the transformative potential of gender-inclusive connectivity. The diverse perspectives offered by the speakers underscored the multifaceted nature of the challenges and opportunities in this domain.

Presentations: Networking of Communities: Good Practices in Community Network Implementation from APAC Region-1

The presentations featured in this context cover a range of initiatives and projects aimed at enhancing connectivity and digital empowerment within various communities across Asia-Pacific regions.

  1. Model building of community networks by Gomer B Padong, Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA):
    • Gomer Padong highlighted the efforts of ISEA in fostering knowledge creation and movement-building for social entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region.
    • Emphasised the importance of meaningful connectivity provided by ISEA, which has led to economic opportunities and inclusive growth, benefiting various sectors including businesses, schools, and hospitals.
    • Mentioned the successful implementation of the DRS system and the use of vouchers for internet connectivity, facilitating seamless transitions for individuals relocating to new cities.
  2. Kacific next-generation in Asia Pacific, by Beatrice Mok, KACIFIC:
    • Beatrice Mok discussed KACIFIC’s mission to provide high-quality satellite internet at an affordable price, focusing on meaningful connectivity.
    • Highlighted the importance of selecting the best reseller, community marketing, and system flexibility to ensure effective distribution and awareness.
    • Advocated for the utilisation of private and public funds to make the infrastructure available, referencing the Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF).
  3. (“network of hope”) by Ramon Roca, Naroman Esperansa, Timor-Leste:
    • Ramon Roca discussed the importance of internet access in the lives of teachers and pupils in Timor-Leste.
    • Emphasised the need for adaptive and long-lasting strategies for sustainability, focusing on technology’s usefulness and adaptability to local contexts.
  4. Bluewave Samoa district connectivity project, by Togisala Tony Sua Leota, BlueWave Wireless:
    • Tony Sua Leota presented BlueWave Wireless’ initiative to provide community connectivity and digital literacy, particularly focusing on schools and women.
    • Highlighted the importance of practical actions over theoretical notions in implementing internet connectivity services, striving to address community-specific problems effectively.

Overall, these presentations showcase diverse approaches and initiatives towards enhancing connectivity and digital empowerment in various communities, emphasising the importance of adaptability, sustainability, and community engagement.

Presentations: Networking of Communities: Good Practices in Community Network Implementation from APAC Region

This session was focused on initiatives and projects aimed at bridging the digital divide and improving internet connectivity and digital skills in rural and underserved communities. Here’s a breakdown of each presentation:

  1. The Prayuters Library by Nay Maneth:
    • Maneth shares his personal experience and motivation behind founding the Prayuters Library.
    • Focuses on providing access to e-books and digital literacy rather than physical books.
    • Highlights the importance of ICT and digitalization in education, literacy, and connectivity.
  2. Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project, Philippines by John Garrity:
    • Represents USAID/Philippines’ BEACON project.
    • Emphasises enhancing connectivity in remote and underserved areas through collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology – Philippines.
    • Discusses technical resources, community network models, sustainability, and scalability.
    • Advocates for the adoption of innovative approaches and emerging satellite technologies to bridge the digital divide.
  3. Hello Hub, Nepal Community Network by Rabiraj Khadka:
    • Presents the Hello Hub community network with 18 locations in Nepal.
    • Demonstrates providing tablets with educational software and 24-hour Wi-Fi access for learning and recreational purposes.
    • Services are provided free of charge to the community.
  4. Padma Shri Dhaniram, Toto Tribe:
    • Dhaniram’s initiative focuses on preserving and promoting the Toto language and culture in the Totopara village.
    • He recorded his voice to create a script for the Toto language, which previously had no script.
    • Believes his actions can inspire others to retain their cultural traditions.
    • Awarded Padma Shri in 2023 for his community work.
  5. Janata: Affordable Internet for the community by Mainul Hassan Alin, Bangladesh:
    • Discusses affordability and mobility in internet access.
    • Introduces Janata WiFi initiative in Bangladesh aimed at providing free and affordable internet.
    • Mentions government initiatives like Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041 to improve internet accessibility.
    • Talks about government funding and regulations regarding WiFi distribution.

Jenny Sulfath, from the Digital Empowerment Foundation, moderates the presentations. Overall, the presentations highlight various efforts and strategies to improve internet connectivity, digital literacy, and access to resources in rural and underserved communities.

Policy & Regulation: Enabling Policy for Just Community Network & Meaningful Sustainable Connectivity & Access Last Mile

This session appears to be a panel discussion on the topic of community networks, internet connectivity, and related policies, particularly focusing on the Indian and Indonesian contexts.

Here’s a summary of the key points discussed by each speaker:

  1. Gustaff Harriman Iskandar (Director, Common Room Networks Foundation):
    • Emphasised the importance of local skill-building for establishing community networks.
    • Highlighted the lack of awareness among people in Indonesia regarding relevant policies and regulations.
    • Advocated for the need for documentation and case studies to facilitate co-learning and the exchange of best practices.
  2. Isha Suri (Research Lead, Centre for Internet and Society, India):
    • Shared insights from research, stating that community networks don’t have to adhere to rigid setups.
    • Discussed challenges with the PM-WANI initiative in India, particularly regarding OTP authentication and the availability of backhaul.
    • Advocated for relaxing licensing for service providers and emphasised the role of community networks in reaching commercially non-viable areas.
  3. Dharmendra Singh (Vice President – New Business, Hughes Communications, India:
    • Stressed the need for recognizing internet connectivity as an essential service at the national level.
    • Suggested a targeted approach for addressing connectivity gaps in India.
    • Highlighted the potential of relaxed licensing policies for satellite operators to improve connectivity.
  4. Abhishek Raj (Centre for Internet and Society, India):
    • Proposed including connectivity in the Gram Panchayat Plan to allocate funds for community networks.
    • Identified challenges with PM-WANI and emphasised the need for backhaul infrastructure.

During the discussion, there were also insights shared regarding Indonesia’s experience with community networks and the role of government and telecom companies. Additionally, challenges related to infrastructure and connectivity gaps in areas served by Rail-tel were discussed.


The moderator, Osama Manzar, facilitated the discussion and asked questions about connectivity issues and policy innovations.

Presentations:  Good Practices in Connectivity & Access in North Eastern Himalayan Region of India

This session outlines the speakers and their respective projects focused on community development, connectivity, and empowerment in various regions of India, particularly in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Here’s a summary of each project and speaker:

  1. Brahmaputra Community Radio Station by Bhaskar Bhuyan:
    • Located in Dibrugarh, Assam, it’s the first community radio station in North East India.
    • Aims to provide a platform for marginalised communities in isolated regions, broadcasting in local languages and dialects.
  2. The Ziro Valley Community Network Project by Nani Monya:
    • Focuses on overcoming historical connectivity challenges in the remote Ziro Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Introduced wifi in schools to provide connectivity and educational opportunities, particularly benefiting the Aratani tribes.
  3. The Char Chapori Networking Project by Manjuara Mulla:
    • Operates in the Char Chapori region of Assam, empowering women through internet connectivity and entrepreneurial opportunities.
    • Addresses gender-based discrimination and connectivity issues, mobilising women to combat child marriages and advocating for digital solutions for education.
  4. Project Internet Roshni: Connecting the Tea Tribe & Adivasi in Assam by Austin Kawa:
    • Aims to connect the historically marginalised tea tribe community in Assam through community networks.
    • Provides digital services at low cost, prioritising remote and backward societies, with plans to expand to other states.
    • Collaborates with the state government to ensure digital inclusion and socio-economic upliftment.

These projects highlight the efforts to bridge the digital divide, empower marginalised communities, and promote socio-economic development through innovative initiatives and community-based approaches.

Workshop: Building Community Network Capacity in local context for last mile internet access and reach; and Session 8: Community Networks (CNs) and digital initiatives in APAC region: A Mapping

In the workshop session, the attendees were asked to answer the following questions which are, What is a Community Network? What are the requirements of a Community Network along with the What makes a “network” a Community Network?

A community or a collection of people creates, owns, and runs a community network, which is a localised and decentralised communication infrastructure. It is intended to meet the unique requirements and preferences of the local community, frequently in places where conventional telecommunications infrastructure may be inadequate or non-existent. There are many different kinds of community networks, such as mesh networks, local Wi-Fi networks, and other kinds of connectivity options.

Regarding the Community Network’s requirements, the following significant points were covered in the submissions. Active participation and engagement of community people are crucial. The community should be involved in the network’s design, implementation, and upkeep. The hardware needed to build up a network, such as routers and access points, is referred to as networking equipment when discussing the infrastructure of the community network.

When a community or a collection of people who share a common interest or live close by creates, owns, and runs a network, it is referred to as a community network. A community network can be distinguished from conventional, for-profit networks by several essential features: The community it serves owns and runs a community network. Community members decide on issues about its creation, layout, and administration together. Community members actively participate in decision-making processes under decentralised, participatory governance arrangements.

At the end of the workshop session, the attendees were asked to create a utopian village of their choice; which resulted in a varied array of responses ranging from small community networks connecting a few institutions such as a local community, and school, to a few homes to a wide community network connecting one or two villages.

“Yes We Can!” Say the Amrapari Women of Char Chapori

Amrapari (We Can) is a women’s collective that was created during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown as a way of creating sustainable livelihoods for char-chapori women in Assam. Many of these women were daily wage earners (e.g., in fisheries, agricultural work, brick kilns, etc.) who suddenly found themselves without work during the lockdown. Their extreme food insecurities were exacerbated by several spates of floods. Started and led by Manjuwara Mullah, a local women’s rights activist and longtime community worker in Barpeta district Assam, Amrapari seeks to support women’s empowerment and economic self-sufficiency. This is primarily accomplished by supporting women in making and selling embroidered quilts—a legacy of women in char chapori areas.

Community Network Reaching the Everest

“From Hidden to Connected: Empowering Khunde and Khumjung Villages with the Everest Community Network”

Khunde and Khumjung villages, which are tucked away in the magnificent Himalayan Mountains in Nepal’s famed Everest area, are yet undiscovered treasures. These settlements have remained less well-known and unaffected by the digital revolution, despite the area becoming more popular with tourists over time. By developing the Everest Community Network in Khunde and Khumjung, the Nepal Internet Foundation undertook the admirable task of bringing about change. The initiative intends to support eco-friendly tourism, protect the natural and cultural environment, and give Khumjung Secondary School and Khunde Community Hall Internet access.

Hello World: A Community Network of Nepal Saying Hello to the World Through Internet

Hello World provides educational resources and Internet connectivity to isolated and vulnerable communities. We do this by building solar-powered, outdoor Internet kiosks— so that underprivileged children and adults can educate themselves, communicate with others, and have a voice in the global community.

Connecting Indigenous Communities of Tea Estates of Assam

Internet Roshni is a program of the Digital Empowerment Foundation and Internet Society Foundation. This program focuses on access and inclusion of the Tea Tribe and Adivasi Community in Assam. The Adivasi Community in Assam has one of the lowest social and economic indicators. The Covid-19 pandemic affected the community as the production and demand decreased so the wages became irregular. With no steady, sustainable, affordable access to the internet, digital resources, opportunities, and welfare announcements, the community is further excluded and now faces challenges for response, recovery, and resilience. With the current focus on shifting all information, and services digitally and online, the community needs major access and digital inclusion support and mainstreaming.

Among the unconnected communities across the world and India, the communities who have been traditionally working in Tea Gardens, are mostly tribals of various origins, and dialects and are remotely located, mostly unconnected from the power of information, knowledge, and rights. 

Janata WiFi: Free for All Internet Highway in Bangladesh

Janata WiFi began with the simple idea of selling WiFi internet with a cup of hot tea at street-side tea stalls. Such stalls could be found at almost every street corner in Bangladesh. Since the inception of “Wifi Cha”, it has been over 5 years and our knowledge regarding all things related to Wireless Technology has deepened as well as our vision for a Wireless Future has become clearer. We began our journey while struggling with two great barriers to internet inclusion, very low cable broadband coverage and highly expensive mobile internet. Our goal was to provide affordable and high-quality internet to the bottom of the pyramid population of Bangladesh.

Lifeline Through Satellite – Kacific Covers 25 Countries in Pacific

Kacific’s purpose is to make a rapid and lasting difference to the people of SouthEast Asia and the Pacific by providing high-quality, low-cost satellite broadband accessible from a small, easy-to-install and affordable antenna. Broadband connectivity enables critical government services to reach the heart of otherwise vulnerable rural communities.

Voices of Brahmaputra via Radio Signals

Brahmaputra Community Radio Station, also known as Radio Brahmaputra 90.4MHZ, is the first grassroots community radio station in North East India, located in the district of Dibrugarh, Assam. Its mission is to provide a platform for marginalised communities living in geographically isolated and media-dark regions such as islands, tea gardens, and remote villages, who speak local languages and dialects that are often not included in mainstream media programs.

Apatani Tribes get Internet

This project, initiated in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Subansiri district, has been breaking barriers in DEF’s Ziro Valley centre.

A year ago, the project took its first steps, establishing itself as the first of its kind in the region. Housed within the welcoming walls of the Myodi Yasi Homestay building in Dilang Popin, this initiative set out on a path of dedicated community service. Now, after a year of dedication and hard work, the project has relocated to a new and promising location.

The relocation was no small feat, taking an entire month to search for the perfect spot and set up the new centre. The team behind Digital Academy EquallyAble poured their hearts and souls into the endeavour, managing their time efficiently and channelling their efforts to create a conducive learning environment.

Despite the challenges, the project’s spirit remained unwavering. A significant milestone was reached when the team celebrated India’s Independence Day on the 15th of August alongside their eager students. The participation of the students in both the preparation of the new centre and the ongoing project was nothing short of overwhelming.

However, the road to success was not without its obstacles. The team faced the initial challenge of locating an appropriate site for their centre. Convincing the committee secretary, Shri. Nani Tadhi, and the chairman, Shri. Tailyang Millo, was a time-consuming process. They had to work diligently to secure the necessary permissions and support for the project’s maintenance.

With limited resources, the team adopted a minimalist approach but ensured that every detail was attended to with utmost care. Despite these challenges, they are proud to have found themselves in a stunning viewpoint that allows them to extend Wi-Fi connectivity to various locations more effectively than ever before.

As the centre’s setup nears completion, the Digital Academy EquallyAble project embarks on a new mission, poised to bridge the digital divide in the Ziro Valley. The story of their determination, perseverance, and commitment to the community serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path to a brighter, more digitally inclusive future for all in the region.


Associate Partners

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CNX-APAC 2023 took place over two days, bringing together different stakeholders, including government officials, policymakers, and grassroots organisations. The event was a collaborative effort by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), Internet Society (ISOC), and Council for Social & Digital Development (CSDD), with support from the APNIC Foundation, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP), Royal Global University (RGU), Association for Progressive Communication (APC), Hughes Communications India Private Limited, World Summit Awards (WSA), TATA Institute of Social Sciences Guwahati (TISS), Wireless for Communities (W4C), and Art and Collective for Digital Empowerment (A-CODE). We are grateful to our partners for their support in the lead-up to and during the event. Our speakers and participants joined us from across continents (both online and offline), with some making special arrangements to connect at odd hours for their time zones. Their participation enriched the discussions and added nuanced perspectives. We would like to express our gratitude to each one of them.

We have exciting plans lined up for CNX-APAC 2024, and we look forward to seeing all our community network partners, organisers, and well-wishers joining us in 2024!