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Fraunhofer FOKUS starts Centre for the Internet Connection of Developing Countries

27.11.2009
Medical services, education or participation in the economy and politics are often limited for around five billion people living in developing and structurally weak areas.

One obstacle standing in their way is the lack of access to the Internet and regional communication infrastructure. In order to connect these regions to the Internet, in January 2010, the Fraunhofer FOKUS will breathe life into the FOKUS NET4DC.

This international centre for information and communication technologies in developing countries will, together with partners from target regions, develop and make available tailor-made IT infrastructures and communication networks.

Well connected across the globe

Berlin, 26th November 2009 - Medical services, education or participation in the economy and politics are often limited for around five billion people living in developing and structurally weak areas. One obstacle standing in their way is the lack of access to the Internet and regional communication infrastructure. In order to connect these regions to the Internet, in January 2010, the Fraunhofer FOKUS will breathe life into the FOKUS NET4DC. This international centre for information and communication technologies in developing countries will, together with partners from target regions, develop and make available tailor-made IT infrastructures and communication networks.

Global responsibility

"The support of sustainable economic concepts is a global challenge. We see our contribution in the supply of mobile commu¬nication applications and the construction of modern IT infrastructures in newly industrialising and developing countries," emphasises Prof Dr Ulrich Buller, a board member of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. This should enable services such as eHealth, eLearning, eGovernment, eCommerce and eMicrobanking and with it foster the integration of structurally weak regions into national and international markets. "By doing this, we can meet the expectations of social responsibility in the global context," says Buller.

The main goal of FOKUS NET4DC is the implementation of modern information and communication technologies in the regions concerned, to enable the sustainable access to global communication networks. Prof Dr Radu Popescu-Zeletin, the director of Fraunhofer FOKUS, instigator and initiator of the centre's FOKUS NET4DC explains, "We are accelerating research and development projects which factor in regional demands such as rough environmental conditions, irregular power supply or the available radio wave spectrums." The tailor-made communications and information solutions made in this way will be used by people who live in sparsely-populated areas and hardly speak any English.

Connected via mesh net

Fraunhofer FOKUS is developing largely intermeshed radio networks for this purpose. Until now, these ad-hoc networks could only cover small areas. Robust technologies and easy operation are in the forefront of the developers' minds. Single nodes - these are radio routers - on the network will automatically connect to neighbouring nodes. If the pathway becomes congested or if one specific compo¬nent fails, the system reacts independently; that is, without human input. Based on these technologies, the communication networks should be able to achieve the level of quality already familiar to Europeans.

In order to meet the technological as well as socio-economic challenges, alongside the IT know-how of Fraunhofer FOKUS, the expertise from various fields of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is also needed. FOKUS NET4DC seeks to pool the relevant competencies; from appropriate materials and wireless communication infra¬structures to alternative energy sources and new network technologies.

The Fraunhofer experts thus wish to adopt a holistic approach and offer an open platform: on the ground, FOKUS NET4DC is looking for the cooperation of established partners such as organisations, research facilities or ventures - it is here that the expertise of different players comes together. "In addition, we will develop and make test and evaluation environments available in order to exactly tailor the capabilities and user-friendliness of the different tech¬nologies and services to the requirements of each target region", emphasises Popescu-Zeletin.

Provision in Zambia

One of the first projects of FOKUS NET4DC is the connection of the Ubuntu Campus, a remote settlement near the village of Macha in the Southern Province of Zambia. Specialists used directional radio in order to connect this settlement to pre-existing satellite technology in Macha. An affordable WLAN network for the primary school, a schooling centre and the office building of the local water board was also ensured by this provision. In addition to this, the experts from Fraunhofer FOKUS want to test, with the help of the network, how reliable the technology is, what the life expectancy is likely to be and how high the maintenance requirements will be given the existing climate conditions.

Analyses show that the inhabitants enjoy using the network for personal communication, the procurement of information as well as educational purposes. For the construction of this infrastructure, FOKUS NET4DC is working hand in hand with a firm from the region, which, amongst other things, runs a small Internet cafe. Alongside this service, which is now being extended to further regions in Zambia, there are also plans to connect small medical stations to the Internet in order to improve the provision of medical services.

About Fraunhofer FOKUS

The Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems, Fraunhofer FOKUS for short, is a Berlin-based research facility devoted to studying and developing communication and information technologies. In particular, it specializes in multi-domain networks and interoperable, user-centered solutions.

With more than 20 years experience, Fraunhofer FOKUS is an important IT research partner for the telecommunications sector, the automobile industry, media services, and public administrations. It frequently cooperates with governmental agencies and software companies to create need-oriented e-government solutions and is a leading collaborator in projects funded by the European Union as well as by national-level sponsors.

Eva Sittig | idw
Further information:
http://www.fokus.fhg.de

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