Connecting Internet Society Suriname
by the people, for the people
The Internet offers the possibility to be in contact and to share information with anyone in the world who also has access to the internet. These benefits affect a country and its population at different levels and have lasting positive effects if embraced inclusively. The ability to gain knowledge increases the level of personal development. As the threshold for making contact and maintaining contact with others who are at a different location is lowered this enables exponential development of social and cultural capital that ultimately transforms into (increased) economic capital.
Our proposal focuses on Suriname, a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south. In 1954, Suriname became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 25 November 1975, the country of Suriname left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become an independent state, nonetheless maintaining close economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties to its former colonizer. Suriname is considered to be a culturally Caribbean country and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The Greater Paramaribo is the area surrounding the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo. Although the national ISP, Telesur, is able to provide high-quality fibre-based Internet access, due to the vast economic inequality this is still unattainable for large parts of the local community.
As one of the key drivers for economic development in nations also seems the development of cities as an economic hub, we propose to offer free internet to underdeveloped communities in the Greater Paramaribo area.
This initiative is part of the aim to develop a more dynamic Internet ecosystem in Suriname, which first of all entails the premier foundation of an Internet Society Chapter Suriname (ISOC.sr).
The Internet Society (ISOC) is an international non-profit organization that has pioneered the Internet and now has nearly 70,000 members worldwide. To this day, ISOC is still committed to openness and accessibility to the Internet for as many citizens as possible. As a non-profit organization, ISOC starts and supports many projects to give people safe and affordable access to the Internet and all its benefits and conveniences.
We have now taken the initiative to set up a local ISOC department (chapter) in Suriname in order to promote increasing accessibility and security of the Internet in Suriname. As an organization, we want to have as many Surinamese members as possible (founding member), because it is precisely members who are active in Suriname who can best estimate what Suriname needs in terms of Internet development.
Founding members deal with the tactical and operational tasks of the organization and translate the needs of the Surinamese community into concrete internet projects. Together with the (local) board, the members set up projects that have a positive impact on the Surinamese population. We focus on improving the price-quality ratio of the Internet in Suriname which includes another spearhead: the establishment of local community networks, in close collaboration with the national provider(s), so that residents of Suriname get affordable access to the Internet regardless of where they live in Suriname. ISOC.sr will also offer the Surinamese population more knowledge about the benefits of the Internet in an understandable way; for a positive development of individuals, companies and the country.
1. Problem – “no means, no internet access, no information, no education”
Over the past decade, numerous discussions have highlighted the essential role that Internet connectivity plays in driving fundamental changes in economic and social development.
In Suriname, the Telesur company has virtually the exclusive right to grant internet access to the population. As a result, relatively high prices apply and the quality remains relatively low, with the result that accessibility to the internet is only affordable for the upper class of the population.
Furthermore, the Surinamese population consists of different communities that mainly live in northern Suriname. Due to the lack of affordable high-quality infrastructure for internet connectivity, many of the Surinamese people have little or no access to the internet. In addition, they have little knowledge about the possibilities that the internet and the use of online applications can give them.
2. The solution
By reducing the costs of access to information and knowledge and expanding the ability to share innovation, connectivity has the potential to empower people, improve access to public services, increase productivity and promote greater civic participation. In many parts of the Americas such as Suriname, however, Internet penetration is still lagging behind most developing countries and, consequently, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy, ICT adoption and opportunities for users are still quite limited.
The use of online applications brings enormous savings and economic opportunities for the government, companies and individuals. These are just a few examples of the extent to which Suriname can be positively influenced by the accessibility of the internet.
We want to support and advise the current civic society organizations in Suriname that are involved in improving the infrastructure for the internet, and offer resources to improve the connectivity and use of the internet for all layers of the Suriname society. These activities are in conjunction with the launch of an Internet Society Chapter, for the first time in Suriname.
Community networks need policy and regulatory assistance in some countries to get started. Due to our ISOC knowledge and local technical community we already have reached out to, we are able to solve critical issues that help the tech and hard work a reality such as:
- Innovations in Spectrum Management to enable community networks and small operators to connect the unconnected
- Policy Briefs concerning Spectrum Approaches for Community Networks
- Unleashing Community Networks through Innovative Licensing Approaches
We propose to erect a number of wifi hotspots with free internet access, depending on the circumstances ranging from
a simple LTE to wifi raspberry pi based router with onboard community management. This can be set up in minutes, see https://github.com/RefugeeHotspot/RefugeeHotspot for source and specifications
Comparable to the refugee hotspot, but more costly and with more capacity.
More capacity still, where different access points work together to create an open mesh network with one or more connections to a local partner ISP.
In order to generate revenue, lower the need for support and become self-supportive, we intend to deploy the
which is able to serve ads to users every half hour or so.
4. Consortium and business network
Design IT, a Suriname based ICT consultancy and supplier of IT Hardware and Software. We focus on both business and consumer market and have built up many years of experience in both fields.
We realize and manage IT-related projects using the latest technologies and innovation.designit.sr:
ISOC Suriname volunteers. ISOC Suriname is being started by a quickly growing network of dedicated founders and expected to be up and running by the time the project starts. This will provide the project with a community of IT savvy volunteers, located mainly in and around Paramaribo.
Art 9 Media, Arturo Castillion, owner and Online Marketing expert. Art 9 Media is an Online Media and Marketing agency delivering services to businesses ranging from creating marketing campaigns to complete media strategies.
ISOC NL, isoc.nl, Alex Blom, chairman and initiator of the refugeehotspot project, Ruben Brave, Community Networks Coordinator with ISOC.org and project lead.
Refugeehotspot.net: an ISOCNL project, supported by the SIDN Fund, which developed a mobile device to remove the obstacles that refugees face when it comes to access the Internet. Developed by The Internet Society Netherlands (ISOC-NL) in dialogue with refugee collectives in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Our contact persons have a sustainable relevant broad network of decision-making contacts in Suriname in the following fields and branches
- Media outlets (Radio- and tv-stations)
- Press agencies
- IT companies
- Marketing agencies
- Regulatory agencies (e.g. Telecommunicatie Autoriteit Suriname (TAS))
- Telephone and internet providers (e.g. Telesur and Digicel)
- Rotary Club Paramaribo
- Major Newspapers (De Ware Tijd)
- Creative and media organizations (e.g. The Backlot)
The contact persons have a good relationship with the Dutch ISOC Chapter, so they can count on their support and knowledge in setting up and continuing the Suriname Chapter. Most of the contact persons have a special status for the Surinamese government, called PSA (Person of Suriname Decent). This status provides the opportunity to work both in the Netherlands and Suriname. These combined forces enable the team to achieve more than foreigners business and relationship-wise. Our goal is to have as many residents as possible operational for the Suriname Chapter and main Community Network deployment.
The cost calculation is based on establishing and maintaining 40 wifi access points during 2 years, with an internet connection, with its own revenue stream generated by in-session advertising starting in year 2.
this concerns finding appropriate locations and closing agreements to set up the access point. Candidates are libraries, community centres, schools, social meeting places such as sporting facilities, architectural highlights (e.g. takeover of existing hotspots like local market named Central Market or Curaçaose Handel Maatschappij Building, see https://bit.ly/schipperen-in-architectuur-paramaribo),
depending on the circumstances, this will be a mix of refugeehotspots, mikrotik routers and OpenMesh Ubiquiti access points, which over time will be developed towards higher bandwidth, higher capacity access points. The cost is an estimated average.
Design IT, one of the partners in this proposal and with local expertise will manage the installation, with special attention to the aspects of security and safety.
4. Support per year including replacement:
higher than average because of publicly accessible locations.
5. Data connection, mobile, fixed:
estimates stem from current offers of providers in Suriname. To be able to start quickly a number of access points using mobile connections will be installed, with fixed connections being the ultimate goal.
6. PR, general and local:
a small scale general campaign will be conducted, targeting the media, while local marketing activities will alert local leaders and their communities to the establishment of an access point being established in the neighbourhood. Monitoring access point activity will help us decide where to focus on further marketing activities.
7. Revenue, advertising:
the adserver will serve ads to access point users every 30 minutes or so, starting to generate a revenue stream estimated to grow to an average of 20 Euro/month/access point in year 2, which will put the project well on its way to self-sufficiency end of year 2.
- Quality and consistency
- Relevance of the problems we seek to solve: in Suriname, the Telesur company has virtually the exclusive right to grant internet access to the population. As a result, relatively high prices apply and the quality remains relatively low, with the result that accessibility to the internet is mainly available to the upper class of the population. Due to the lack of affordable high-quality infrastructure for internet connectivity, many of the Surinamese people have little or no access to the internet.
- Inclusion of achievable and measurable goals: establishing and maintaining 40 wifi access points during 2 years, with an internet connection, with its own revenue stream generated by in-session advertising starting in year 2.
- Innovative nature of the project: the project is new to Suriname, and original, underprivileged communities are currently deprived of internet access. The setup also lends itself to further development in a technical sense, see the development plan for a public multi-functional lantern, e.g. see https://www.schreder.com/en/products/shuffle-smart-multifunctional-column , https://www.luxreview.com/2019/06/20/wi-fi-5g-iot-meet-the-street-light-of-the-futur/ and https://www.outdoordesign.com.au/news-info/the-charge-up-smart-pole/4387.htm
- Expected impact: by reducing the costs of access to information and knowledge and expanding the ability to share innovation, connectivity has the potential to empower people, improve access to public services, increase productivity and promote greater civic participation. Our project mainly focuses on people having access to information, share information and connect with other people on the internet.
- Implementation capacity of the proposing entities: the consortium possesses project management experience, implementation capacity, community networks expertise and a network of volunteers, plus a healthy drive of enthusiasm and willingness to succeed!
- Consistency of the budget with respect to the proposed activities: the budget has been determined using available pricing where possible (hardware, data connection) hands-on experience (scouting, installation, support) and estimates looking at comparable projects (PR, revenue)
- Sustainability and replicability of the projects
7. Conclusion – We want to build a digital future that puts Suriname’s people first
Closing the digital divide is critical and community networks offer a solution. These are “do it yourself” networks built by people for people.
In recent years the number of community networks has grown throughout the continent, providing a credible “community connectivity” alternative to the traditional model used to provide Internet access. However, the establishment and expansion of community networks depend on countless variables ranging from the existence of efficient and sustainable local organizations, the availability of technological capabilities, the number of available resources, and the existence of friendly environmental conditions, to institutional and regulatory conditions that favour or hinder the implementation of such community networks.
Our first priority is to provide the people of Suriname, starting in Greater Paramaribo, with free internet and open internet applications. In addition, we want to connect people outside Suriname with Suriname as a country and its population through our projects, there already is a historic link between Suriname and The Netherlands.
The mission of the new Internet Society Suriname Chapter coincides well with the ISOC Action Plan 2020 to focus more on the accessibility of the internet in less developed countries and areas. Specifically with:
- II. Strengthening the Internet: promote a positive localized vision for the decentralized “Internet way of networking and securing global routing based on the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) initiative (workshops).
- III. Growing the Internet: Building Community Networks, prevention of Internet shutdowns due to governmental pressure.
- IV. Building Our Community, Extending Our Voice: recruit ISOC Policy Fellows to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to build and channel diversity with the growth of the Internet in South- and Latin America.
Within that civic society context the human-centric approach related to “data justice” will be taken into account. The increasing availability of digital data reflecting economic and human development, and in particular the availability of data emitted as a by-product of people’s use of technological devices and services, has both political and practical implications for the way people are seen and treated by the state and by the private sector. Yet the data revolution is so far primarily a technical one: the power of data to sort, categorise and intervene has not yet been explicitly connected to a social justice agenda by the agencies and authorities involved. Meanwhile, although data-driven discrimination is advancing at a similar pace to data processing technologies, awareness and mechanisms for combating it are not. Our initiative subscribes to the notion that just as an idea of justice is needed in order to establish the rule of law, an idea of data justice – fairness in the way people are made visible, represented and treated as a result of their production of digital data – is necessary to determine ethical paths through a datafying world. Bringing together the emerging scholarly perspectives on this topic as the basis of a notion of international data justice: (in)visibility, p(dis)engagement with technology and anti-discrimination. These pillars integrate positive with negative rights and freedoms, and by doing so challenge both the basis of current data protection regulations and the growing assumption that being visible through the data we emit is part of the contemporary social contract.
While the community network model seems relatively easy to implement and operate, knowledge about existing proven models and the options available for their organization and maintenance, or about which conditions can facilitate their implementation and success. For this reason, the purpose of this initiative is to highlight the potential of community networks in terms of expanding connectivity and its positive social, cultural and economic externalities, but also to invest in the necessary regulatory elements that optimize their development and highlight the regulatory experiences that have allowed removing obstacles to the full operation of community networks.
For the budget details: see this document.
For the images: see this link.
For a explanatory video: see this link.