This is somewhat old news but last September Fongtil and I won an award for our work on the Dili Village Telco. Here is the ISIF press release. We were selected from a group of about 50 ISIF funded projects for the award. Here is a photo of Lemi (2nd from right) accepting the award in Nairobi, Kenya:
Although this project was my first developing world deployment and I worked hard to make sure we did a good job, soaking up experience and knowledge from others where I could.
I think we got it about 70% right. Many things (ease of use, training, enthusiasm for local assembly and installation) worked really well. However being an Engineer there are still some remaining “bugs” I feel compelled to work on, for example there are still lingering issues with Wifi link quality, and a sustainable business model. Importantly, I haven’t seen viral growth, either in Timor or other Village Telco deployments. This is important for me – my goal for the Village Telco was to help a lot of people in the developing world get telephony. This can only happen if the local people embrace the technology and grow the networks themselves without reliance on grants or 1st world technical input. I do think many of the pieces for this are in place. “The Engineer” in me would love to have a go at really fixing those remaining issues! Still, this award confirms we did pretty well over all.
Although the funded part of the project officially ended in 2011, Fongtil are continuing to work on the project using internal resources and have also secured a further ISOC grant. They continue to train people, install nodes, evangelise with government (e.g. installing Mesh Potatoes in the National Parliament building), and have plans to fix the Wifi link issues in Dili:
I have moved my time and attention to other projects for now, but would love to get back to Timor some time to help out if I can. In the mean time Village Telco development and deployment work continues in Timor Leste and around the world.