Creating community networks with the LibreRouter

The Librerouter provides community networks in Argentina. Through training programs, the local community can install these themselves.

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Theresa Haans
1 February 2023 Clock 3 min

Nearing the end of our project with Altermundi, we asked them to share their knowledge and insights regarding the progress of the project as well as the already visible outcomes. Through a training program provided by AlterMundi, participants from several communities learned how to install the LibreRouters.

Opportunities for sustainable connectivity

Through this project, AlterMundi aimed to provide the technical and organizational tools for 16 community networks. That way these networks can deploy their own community networks and apply to the Roberto Arias Program. When participants from the various communities learn how to install and set up the routers, it creates greater opportunities for the communities to sustain the connectivity in these areas. The project was financed mainly with APC funds. supported the project to guarantee technical and non-technical advice to the communities. The funds were also used to allocate local expenses for the deployment of their initial network of 4 nodes.

Setting up the LibreRouters

The project allowed 15 community networks to have a kit of 4 LibreRouters with all its accessories and tools for deployment.

One of the community had to withdraw due to problems unrelated to AlterMundi. Only 15 communities continued. The money assigned to number sixteen was allocated to expenses to hold a face-to-face meeting at Villa Ciudad Parque. Twelve of the fifteen were able to meet in person and share their experience of setting up the four nodes locally. Additionally, they carried out debates on the various reasons that led each one to be there.

Throughout the virtual meetings they acquired the necessary knowledge and advice to carry out the deployments in their communities. This process allowed them to develop technological appropriation, recognizing themselves capable of self-managing their Internet networks. By November 18th, all of them had deployed their four nodes and successfully connected the local network to the Internet. El Semillero began its regular meetings virtually every Thursday in May, each lasting just over two hours.

Social impact

Between 3 and 5 people per community actively participated in the weekly training process. Approximately 3-4 families have been reached per node through the deployment of the network infrastructure. It is estimated to reach more than 90 people in each network. This is because they live in or pass through the location of the nodes. In some cases even more, because between 2 and 4 nodes have been placed strategically in areas or institutions with lots of people. This allows internet connection for the common good. Examples are community centers, community radio stations, clubs, and shelters for teenage mothers. 

In Santiago del Estero, a node was located at the headquarters of the Universidad Campesina UNICAMSURI. People all over the region received their training here. This makes it difficult to quantify the exact number of people benefitted.

Learning through unforeseen challenges

One of the challenges is always being able to articulate virtually with people who generally work and organize in person. For example workers such as farmers, community radio stations and workers in the popular economy. There is a clear lack of quality connectivity in the selected rural communities, which is percisely why they were selected. Until they design their network and make it effective, connectivity is erratic and expensive. 

The same with the electric power service: when it fails even the local cell phone antenna is turned off. That is why AlterMundi handles various and redundant forms of communication. Virtual meetings were recorded to watch later, and constant dialogue was maintained through general and community WhatsApp groups. 

AlterMundi also held phone conversations and zoom meetings with people from a community, as well as collective ones. They had face-to-face group meetings in Villa Ciudad Parque and created and disseminated written and audiovisual training resources. Towards the end of the Semillero, they had face-to-face visits by AlterMundi to several of the community networks.