A new pilot project from the MyDigitalBridge Foundation, in partnership with Microsoft and Adaptrum, has been successfully trialled in Namibia.
The Namibian TV White Spaces (TVWS) pilot project has the support of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)-Namibia, and aims to utilise unused broadcasting spectrum to provide internet access.
Currently the project – named ‘Citizen Connect - consists of a network deployed over a 62km x 152km (9,424 km²) area covering three regional councils. Connecting 28 schools in northern Namibia, it is the biggest TVWS project of its kind in terms of area coverage.
Namibia, like most sub-Saharan African countries, is facing a digital divide. The ITU’s country profile shows that only 13.9% of the population is using the internet.
“Our mission is to facilitate appropriate private-public sector (PPP) initiatives to ensure the underserved and un-served communities in Namibia are included in the technology landscape,” says Dr. Hylton Villet, Chairman of MyDigitalBridge Foundation, which architected and deployed the network with support of Microsoft and Adaptrum.
“This pilot project came at the right time for us to answer to the challenges of internet access, or the lack thereof, to all our citizens,” says Hon. Dr. Moses Amweelo, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on ICT. In 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognising internet access as a basic human right.
The deployment of TVWS technology in Africa falls under Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, which launched in February 2013 to actively enable African economic development using relevant, affordable and accessible technology.
“Internet access is a fundamental pillar in Africa’s leap forward towards a sustainable knowledge economy. We are seeing first-hand the direct impact of TVWS delivering affordable access to communities and business”, says Fernando de Sousa, Microsoft’s General Manager for Africa Initiatives.
“The unlimited potential of broadband is enabling large scale development of human capital, the establishment of e-commerce services in the small and medium business ecosystem and the delivery of government services such as education and health care to the community”, added de Sousa.
In collaboration with local public and private sector partners, Microsoft 4Afrika is currently piloting TVWS projects in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Ghana. In addition to these on-the-ground deployments, Microsoft is advocating for laws and regulations that promote more efficient and effective spectrum utilisation as a member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance.