Libre Router, one of the projects we are involved at, has been awarded a FIRE Africa Award. These awards seek to acknowledge innovative initiatives in Africa that have made concrete contributions through the use of information and communications technologies and have had a proven impact on the region’s social and economic development. They are granted by the Fund for Internet Research and Development – FIRE Africa – one of Africa’s leading Grants and Awards programmes designed to encourage, support and develop innovative online solutions to Africa’s education, information, infrastructure and communication needs. FIRE Africa provides funds in the form of Grants and Awards for projects, initiatives, tools and platforms that harness the power of the Internet to empower the local and regional community to solve the region’s unique online communications problems.
Community Networks depend on modifying existing off-the-shelf routers to adapt them to their particular needs. Software development that originated in Community Network groups and the Free Software movement as a whole has pushed the barrier of innovation and helped commercial enterprises develop new products over the years. This virtuous relation between hardware vendors and the community has been threatened by new regulation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – U.S.A., which has led vendors to globally close up their routers to third party modifications, hindering open innovation and effectively closing the door to Community Networks in terms of access to the hardware they depend on. The Libre Router project will design and produce a high performance multi-radio wireless router targeted at Community Networks’ needs. The reality of life in the Global South, and that of Africa in particular, will be specially considered in terms of cost, power consumption, respect for orality and legal viability.