Afghanistan's Amazing DIY Internet
Title: Afghanistan's Amazing DIY Internet
Author: Neal Ungerleider
Source: Fast Company
Date (published): 21/06/2011
Date (accessed): 10/07/2011
Type of information: article
On-line access: yes (HTML)
"FabFi is an ambitious project which is creating Internet networks for eastern Afghanistan whose main components can be built out of trash. It's low-tech, it's simple--and it works.
The Afghan city of Jalalabad has a high-speed Internet network whose main components are built out of trash found locally. Aid workers, mostly from the United States, are using the provincial city in Afghanistan's far east as a pilot site for a project called FabFi.
It's a broadband apart from the covert, subversive "Internet in a suitcase" and stealth broadband networks being sponspored by the U.S., aimed at empowering dissidents, but the goal isn't so different: bringing high-speed onilne access to the world's most remote places.
Residents can build a FabFi node out of approximately $60 worth of everyday items such as boards, wires, plastic tubs, and cans that will serve a whole community at once. While it sounds like science fiction, FabFi could have important ramifications for entire swaths of the world that lack conventional broadband.
FabFi is an open source project that maintains close ties to MIT's Fab Lab and the university's Center for Bits and Atoms. At the moment, FabFi products are up and running in both Jalalabad and at three sites in Kenya, which collectively operate as an Internet service provider called JoinAfrica. Inside Afghanistan, FabFi networks are used to aid local businesses and to prop up community infrastructure such as hospitals and clinics.
FabFi is funded primarily by the personal savings of group members and a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The technology used to create FabFi networks seems like it leaped out of an episode of MacGyver. Commercial wireless routers are mounted on homemade RF reflectors covered with a metallic mesh surface. Another router-on-a-reflector is set up at a distance; the two routers then create an ad-hoc network that provides Internet access to a whole network of reflectors. The number of reflectors which can be integrated into the network is theoretically endless; FabFi's network covers most of Jalalabad."
See also: FabFi