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Pedal power, Linux gets Ugandans talking

By   |  June 21, 2005

On June 8 residents of Nyamiryango in western Uganda made their first telephone call from their village. What made this particularly noteworthy is that the village has no electricity or phone lines.

Nyamiryango is one of five telecommunications hubs that have been installed in the western half of Uganda by ActionAid and Inveneo. Using a combination of Linux and solar- and pedal-powered batteries, the two organisations have provided residents in the area with a voice over IP (VoIP) network.

The installation, in the Bukuuku sub-county of Kabarole district in Uganda gives villagers access to phones, computers and the Internet for the first time.

Inveneo has set up five systems: one central hub (Community Knowledge Center) that connects other villages to the local phone network. There are no existing landlines in the region so the team has used GSM terminal units and the existing Internet connection at the Community Knowledge Center to provide telecoms links.

The other four communications stations are in villages with no access to electricity or phone lines. All stations are connected with 802.11 wireless network links with a range of between two and six km.

The system uses provides villagers with Linux, KDE, OpenOffice for Internet and productivity. The telephone connections are established using the open source Asterisk VoIP PBX system. Each village has its own extension and voice mail box. The PBX system allows for free calls among the connected villages. Any phone in the world can call the stations in the villages and calls to any phone in Uganda are possible from the village stations.

Inveneo designed the system being used in Uganda to cater for areas in which there is little or no telecommunications and electricity system. The system provides computing and phone capabilities while operating with battery power charged from solar panels or bicycle generators. Wireless networking (802.11x) provides the communication between the various stations and the central hub. Solar-powered relay stations make it possible to extend the range of the connections up to 60km.

For more visit Inveneo also has illustrations and details of the project here.


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