White Paper: Kristin Peterson

All the 2007 Principal Voices are submitting a White Paper to the Web site explaining their views at length.

A telephone. A computer. Email. The Internet. We use these information and communication tools every day. It's difficult to imagine our lives without them.

Kristin PetersonEven as the world becomes increasingly connected, more than 2 billion people living in remote and rural communities in the developing world still lack access to the most basic computing and communication tools. In Africa, for example, cell-phone usage is exploding in urban centers, but only a small percentage of the rural population has ready access to a telephone of any sort, much less the Internet or a computer. Organizations operating in these areas face the same immense communication challenges as they work to extend vital services to the rural poor.

Providing access to telephones, computers and the Internet -- something that we in the developed world take for granted -- can transform lives in simple, yet profound, ways. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can save lives by increasing people's access to healthcare and bettering service quality. They can boost economic opportunities by delivering crucial pricing information to farmers. They offer people greater access to government services, and help with the monitoring and enforcement of human rights. And ICTs will create a brighter future for children and adults by improving their access to educational tools.

Our team has extensive experience in networking, hardware and telecommunications. We started in 2004 with the idea that today's technologies could be combined to make open, affordable, and highly sustainable ICTs a reality in rural areas. Inveneo creates ICT systems for schools, governments, NGOs and private enterprises that provide essential education, healthcare, e-government, economic development and communication services for rural communities.

We have developed inexpensive, cost-effective, ultra-low-power computers and servers that can run on batteries charged by solar, partial grid power or other energy sources. They have few moving parts, allowing them to operate in rugged environments. These systems can communicate using long-distance wireless (WiFi) broadband networking with a range up to 62 miles (100 km) to connect locations or reach Internet and telephone services. We use integrated free and open source software, combining functionality with simplicity of use for new users and administrators.

However, the right technology is only part of the solution. We also train local partners -- ICT professionals and small-business entrepreneurs -- on rural solutions, and provide them with direct access to relevant technologies. These partners then provide affordable installation and support for the organizations. This approach provides new revenue opportunities for the entrepreneur and helps build the local economy and ICT expertise. AMD 50x15. Cisco Systems and USAID have recently provided support for Inveneo to develop and expand our partner program in Africa. Read more about long-distance WiFi

In one of our most recent projects in northern Uganda, we designed and installed a high-speed, local-area network using long-range WiFi networking devices, ultra-low-power computers and VoIP telephony for Caritas and Catholic charities. The network is powered by solar panels and battery arrays. Internet connectivity is carried from the city of Gulu via the Inveneo WiFi network to the internally displaced persons camps up to 40 miles (70 Km) away. The project connects 11 offices, two clinics, and three schools. The network is being used for all types of communication needs, including schoolteacher training, consultations between clinics and doctors, communication with American and European donors and making sure critical information on human-rights violations gets out into the wider world.

Since 2006, Inveneo has completed more than 20 projects in Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Mali, involving schools, health centers, relief camps, entrepreneurial businesses, telecenters and microfinance organizations. Directly or indirectly, these projects provide more than 100,000 people with life-changing computers, phones and Internet access. With the right funding and support, we will be able to meet our three-year goal to certify more than 100 partners, and to jointly complete projects that will provide a digital lifeline to thousands of communities and millions of people in poor and rural areas of the developing world.

What do you think?

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Name: Dan Juma
Location: South Africa

I'm very impressed with the application of current technology especially WiFi to interconnect offices. I'm a GSM engineer and I feel that large scale interconnectivity will be beneficial especially in developing countries. However, connection to rural offices is not enough without investment in ICT education so that the rural folk can benefit from it. I'm glad to see that you're doing just that. Kudos!

Name: Joy Freeman
Location: Niger

My husband and I work with SIM, International. We dream of this kind of technology reaching our area of the world! We live in a rural village without electricity and run a Student Center with a computer lab (2 at present). Therefore computer classes can only be taught when our generator is running. I also do village health training in two separate programs...one for certified health workers and another for basic health prevention and health care for village women. New possibilities open up when technology like this is made available to developing areas. Hope to see Inveneo in our area some day.

Name: Fredrick Onyango
Location: Kenya

I am working as a hotelier and I have to hail praise to the Principal Voices for changing lives. I am too engaging in the same direction and I have to say that all that we do to provide better futures will live on and make the world a better place to live.

Name: Dr. Cornelius. T. Mwalwanda
Location: Geneva, Switzerland

I would like to get in touch with Ms. Kristin Peterson to explore the chances of starting a similar project in the Northern part of Malawi to bring ICT to schools in the area. I am a UN International civil servant retiring next year and would like to bring ICT to schools in Malawi.

Name: Molly Mayfield Barbee
Location: Sudan

This is such an inspiring paper! I couldn't agree more about technology's empowering, informing, and connecting influence. It can cut across vast divides, including distance, class, language and more.

I work for an organization called Peace X Peace, and we use the Internet to connect women around the world to each other for direct cross-cultural communication, relationships, and peace-building. I would love to be introduced to Kristin Peterson to see how we could work with Inveneo to expand connectivity among the 62 countries where we have members and more. Since my current home is Sudan, I would be particularly interested in talking with her about enhancing the technological infrastructure here.

Individuals can make a difference, especially when their efforts are amplified by ever emerging and ever improving technologies. Thank you for featuring the work of Inveneo and thanks to Inveneo for being a model for others.

Name: Cathy Gaabue
Location: South Africa

This is what rural areas have been waiting for - a service for the community at large. For example, there are still some locations that have been waiting for electricity for three years. What is happening to the schools, health centers? It's a disaster. Computer applications technology should be taught to everyone in the developing areas of this country. There is a huge gap in service delivery in numerous government departments. Your assistance in this regard will lift the spirit of innovators.

Name: Sergio Pacheco
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Activities like these are the hope for the future. The future of small communities and of the entire world.