Q&A with the Winners: Barros Mweso

In this Q&A, Barros Mweso talks about his team’s solution — Rural Malawi Connectivity — which won the 1st Place, Business Models Concept prize in the 2022 Connecting the Unconnected Challenge.

1.Please summarize your winning solution

Image courtesy of Barros Mweso

The Community Sponsored Digitalization-Model is led by Fast Networks, a wireless broadband internet service provider operating in the Northern region of Malawi. One of Fast Networks goals is to empower the rural communities to ‘go digital’ using the major elements of connectivity, like – having affordable internet connectivity, having relevant content, having access to affordable digital literacy, having affordable devices, and building community networks using low-cost infrastructure.

The CSD project is one of the company’s large-scale digital intervention projects, where the organization works with community members and the private sector to bring a combination of broadband internet with ICT equipment and digital capacity building for members in rural communities. The goal of Fast Networks is to provide access to quality education through the combination of internet connectivity, capacity building, and ICT resources. The CSD project aims to demonstrate how to access broadband internet services via Air fiber, Television White Spaces Technology (TVWS), Microwave and Vsat.

All digital activities are financially contributed and funded by the communities through established digital committees authorized by the village head or Chief. Fast Networks act as a lead consultant of the project responsible for technical support, skills transfer programs and safeguarding the sustainability of the whole project. This concept was developed to end digital development dependency/handouts from donors or government as this has proven to be unsustainable and at the same time leveling the playing field for the digital underprivileged rural communities through safe empowerment. This kind of models will help our communities achieve the AU’s Agenda 2063 and Malawi Agenda 2063.

2.What is the most unique/innovative aspect about your approach?

For the first time rural communities are starting to realize that contributing an unbelievable fund can bring them closer to 4th industrial revolution without affecting their daily basic needs.

Image courtesy of Barros Mweso

3. What did you enjoy most about the CTU Competition and Summit Program?

The summit exposed us to so many likeminded partner’s and it was an eye-opening summit that creates one global digital village of learning what other people have achieved so far in the toughest digital regulatory environment.

4.What are your projects plans for the next 12-18 months?

By the time we were submitted our entry to the IEEE challenge, our CSD- Model was already running and now is being scaled to other villages. So far 6 villages are benefiting and 10 more villages are formulating digital committees to start raising funds. We are targeting 70 villages in 2023.

5.What is your estimate of the number of people impacted by your program?

The model will impact a population of 2.6 million people of the Northern region of Malawi where we are licensed to operate.