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While Internet capacity is growing in Africa, the amount of investment needed to truly bring Africa online cannot be afforded by many governments, apart from the fact that vested interests make the Internet business lucrative for those in control. For these and other reasons, mesh networks may provide an interim solution in the next 5-10 years. Such networks provide local broadband and poor Internet connectivity. 

New developments in South Africa, where ISPs and cellular companies offer free data during out of business hours, also point to a new way of allowing Africans affordable Internet. Both the mesh scenario and the "out of hours Internet" scenario can be addressed by batch technologies. Email, website mirroring, etc. can all be provided at a much lower cost using batch technologies. That is, to view a YouTube video inexpensively, you would say which video you wanted to see, and that video would be downloaded at night ready for your viewing the next day, by a local service (be it on your phone, a lab server, etc.).

Unique Feature of awareNet

The unique feature of awareNet is that it allows the creation of a single social network, that brings the network to its users, instead of expecting them to come to the full Internet, which is too expensive. awareNet can be hosted locally within a mesh, allowing a large number of servers worldwide, all of which may only have intermittent access to each other. This allows participants to use rich technologies (multimedia) in collaborative projects with other learners anywhere in the Internet. Responses may be delayed, but they are at least enabled.

Learners on a mesh network or a LAN can make use of the broadband Internet to produce strong local content (including videos, their own music, and picture galleries) and share it overnight with learners in the rest of the world. awareNet is a single social network, which has the potential to bring learners all over the world together in a collaborative learning experience that can grow flexibly as more learners join. 

awareNet Functions

  • friends network with profiles, status updates, notifications, etc
  • discussion forums
  • personal and syndicated picture galleries
  • blogs and blog aggregation
  • instant messaging (chat)
  • user messaging (mail)
  • image and file management
  • shared calendar
  • collaborative projects to encourage teamwork

It is now being developed further in close cooperation with the learners to adapt it precisely to their needs while they learn the basic skills of how to use the computers. This method particularly motivates the learners to cooperate in a focused manner, because changes are visible immediately. Especially interesting is the fact that awareNet’s functionality will, for a large part, be determined by young inexperienced users. New insights of the perception of young African users may make awareNet a highly popular tool, helping bring Africa onto the Internet in an unprecedented manner and making generations of young Africans more aware of our global community. awareNet is free/libre open source software (FLOSS).

Terri-Lynn Penney. (Community Coordinator in Grahamstown)
Ron (idea of awareNet)
Strix (main developer of awareNet and inventor of Kapenta)
Mark (second developer of awareNet)
Anna (quality management)

imageexpanded|size=thumb|raUID=160632003668816928|     Village Scribe Association 

The Village Scribe Association wants to broaden the perspectives of and increase the possibilities for people who have very little. Our focus lies on advancing the education of underprivileged people living in marginalised rural areas so that they will not only be able to help themselves, but also develop an awareness of their uniqueness and their own possibilities. 

Our Intention is to envisage, conceive of, use, and support modern, innovative information and communication technologies to help people in the developing world to become autonomous and financially independent. It is of particular importance for us that all the supported projects are sustainable. Our Association supervises and supports existing projects, e.g. the ECSPIRT Project which includes the implementation and usage of awareNet. 

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imageexpanded|size=thumb|raUID=100538192340076697|     eKhaya ICT

eKhaya ICT is an IT project management and software development startup with a strong bond to the Eastern Cape and rural African communities. Our mission is to improve the usage of the internet in developing areas in order to build bridges between communities (intra- and inter-, local and foreign) and to improve literacy, competitiveness and ultimately socio-economic standards in those communities through custom software development. 

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The ECSPIRT Project

TheEastern Cape Schools Participatory Internet Research and TrainingProject was set up to solve the problem of lacks of teachers in ruralschools in the former Transkei, South Africa. It attempts to introducea two-pronged solution in situations where computers and Internetaccess are available.

Firstly, an ongoing, sustainable andindependent training structure will be set up. This will ensure thatgenerations of scholars will receive appropriate training and that thecomputer lab will be used to full capacity. Secondly and parallel tothe training programme, a new innovative software awareNet will beused to assist the scholars. [ read more >> ]

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Would you like to join awareNet? Comments, criticisms, questions? We'd love to hear from you.

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For more about us and what we do, check out the Village Scribe Association website.

This is a live social network of students and teachers. If you'd like to try out the software, please do sign up at our demo/testing site ( and play around with it. We'd love to hear any feedback you may have.