Articles, Blog

The village that built its own wi-fi network – BBC Africa

August 30, 2019

The middle of nowhere has been keeping a secret. And we’re off to find out what it is
and how it can change Africa. South Africa has one of the highest internet
penetration rates on the continent. But despite that, people who live in remote
places like this say they don’t use the Internet. Two of the biggest barriers,
according to research: affordability and accessibility. Mankosi is made up of 12 villages. Home to over 6,000 people. And until late last year there was no electricity
here. Running water is still a luxury. But they have a cheap and stable wi-fi network. They built and registered their own internet
service provider. I’m wondering if I can buy a voucher. Yes, you can buy a voucher. How much does it cost? 25 rand ($1.70; £1.30). Only 25 rand, it lasts a whole month. Mama Sigcau is one of the elders who convinced
other villagers that the internet would bring development here. She’s one of a handful who sell vouchers
that gives residents and visitors uncapped wi-fi for under $2 a month. Did you you know what wi-fi was before it
came here? No, no, we didn’t know. We didn’t know anything about wi-fi. It is when it came and connected and then we see this is something
that gives us a better life. And at school people do their homework, everything. Even though I don’t have TV,
I can see news, everything. South Africa’s data prices are still among
the most expensive on the continent. According to the latest research, out of Africa’s
six leading economies one gigabyte of data would cost you seven times more here than
in Egypt. That’s three times more expensive than in
Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. So why is Mankosi wi-fi so cheap? Seven years ago researchers from the University
of the Western Cape, with the help of the community, built a mesh network here. It’s a cheap, low-energy system using scattered
node devices rather than a central mast or beacon that’s used by traditional telecoms
networks. These nodes communicate with each other. An important feature is that it’s solar
powered. So, we are at the home of one of the headmen
of the villages that make up Mankosi. This is known as Ncgobo and once a month community
members meet here as part of the co-operative. It functions much like a business. And this is the board meeting. Except it’s owned, operated and maintained
by villagers. They collect the money made from
selling wi-fi vouchers. This is funnelled into community
projects. The name of the network is Zenzeleni. It means ‘do it yourself’. And 33-year-old Zuko Tshitshi is the embodiment
of the slogan. Previously unemployed and unskilled, he’s
now the resident technician. Looks like there’s a problem with our connection
here. The village built this mast themselves at a fraction of what telecommunications companies quoted. At the beginning when this dream came to our
village I thought it’s impossible, you know. We can’t make a network because we never
studied the network. It’s impossible. But as the time goes, I saw this was going
to be real, that’s why I put my effort trying to learn everything technically. My dream has come true now. I like to prove people wrong. When I see the kids using the internet they
know the internet they are using was made by the people they know,
from here in the same village. It’s like… I’m a God to them. We want to know where they buy the internet, we want to know what they are doing with the internet. While Zuko maintains the infrastructure
others are trying to understand how the internet is used. These researchers are doing a survey. Professor William Tucker oversees the project. We are interested in seeing the different
usage patterns because we want to learn what are the barriers to people adopting the technology and what are the things they are actually using it for. One of the biggest barriers is access to devices
that support the network. We are searching for the cause of globalisation. At this local school students make use of
smartphones. We are about 60km from Mankosi in an area
called Zithulele and this village is the latest one to get online. How difficult it is to balance the traditional
way of life with bringing advancement in the form of wi-fi or this network? Yeah, yeah it’s not easy. Retaining traditional community values and
combining it with advanced technology, to me that’s what a rural community network
is. It’s like this meeting of two worlds. The youth will come and do things that we
can’t even think of. I think it’s amazing. Community networks like this one could be
a way to connect Africa to the global village. Driven by the innovation and energy of the
youth – the people of Mankosi say this is just the start for Zenzeleni. This is my dream now. It is inside my heart now, I can’t run from
this now anymore.


  • Reply Futurepoint April 10, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Meanwhile I pay $18 per month for two GB

  • Reply Beryl Ackermann April 10, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Its wonderful to see the "local black Africans", doing things for themselves. This why they can also build up their communities. Have communication, with CE phones, TV, computers, and help too with education (online if possible). Black Africans can get work together with others who have more experience and skills to show them what to do. Well done all of those who have made it possible.

  • Reply General Malaise April 10, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Plug in and play, and commenters promote it like it was invented here.

  • Reply Scott Free April 10, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    This is actually pretty dumb, you think they'd focus on something a little more important than Wi-Fi…

  • Reply Fred Krazé April 11, 2019 at 12:05 am

    okay, its one thing to create your own local wifi network, but its also a whole other thing having it fully SOLAR POWERED!!!!

  • Reply Mr Corndog April 11, 2019 at 1:46 am

    BBC be like: take them to UK, you should sacrifice your jobs and money for them, it's time UK becomes poor too

  • Reply Your Highness April 11, 2019 at 2:19 am

    Those damn Smartphones are everywhere.

  • Reply Nevin Jesmon Chakiath April 11, 2019 at 3:18 am

    Any lucky indians here?
    We are getting 1GB for 0.14USD

  • Reply omega73582 April 11, 2019 at 5:07 am

    Lmao here in New Zealand its $11 nzd per gb

  • Reply wat April 11, 2019 at 6:21 am

    The internet is the 21st century of fire..

  • Reply OtherAntking April 11, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Damn call this guy to built free wifi in my hood.

  • Reply HDDUBBFILMS April 11, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    South African accent is funny 😂

  • Reply Danny M April 11, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    This is a great video. Shame about the racist comments. From both whites and blacks. Those comments are what cause more division. Get a grip. Help, rather than hinder.

  • Reply RAKESH DAS April 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I accept but too much expensive specially data plan , call rates more more then India . Like u can say telecom company robbing here people if is like this how will people be digitally sign up

  • Reply Adolf Göbbels April 11, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    The start of wakanda.!

  • Reply ashy kneez Mcgee April 11, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    I live in cape town my grandparents are originally from about a 1 hour drive from here and hopefully this spreads through the entire rural Eastern cape( province)we really need it. Enkosi kakhulu

  • Reply Drue-Michael Buono April 11, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Makes you realize how we just take the internet for granted in 1st world countries

  • Reply jonnyawsom3 April 11, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    British broadcasting company news Africa

  • Reply Felipe Siqueira April 11, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    wait until these kids discover porn….

  • Reply boondoc001 April 11, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    This is awesome to see and I know recently, communities in some low income parts of Detroit have done this as well. I'm down to see this movement grow 👍🏾

  • Reply Randomly Videologs April 11, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Internet is supposed to be free .. it can be made to connect but its a crime/illegal its all hackers do .. I mean why pay this fcking theives when you can make it your self

  • Reply Reakted April 11, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    this is pure inspiration

  • Reply khalil elazoui April 11, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Hey hey people Sseth here, welcome to Wakanda.

  • Reply Mike Oxlong April 11, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    7.60 per gigabyte is expensive?!! Hah, come to Canada and see how people really get raped.

  • Reply Jay Dplus April 11, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    PH connectivity and laws are designed for telcos!!

  • Reply john king April 11, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    these are the ones that are scamming old people in the united states lol…

  • Reply Viral king April 12, 2019 at 1:29 am

    I see why Advenger final attack in Africa 😂😂

  • Reply tomar5e115 April 12, 2019 at 5:58 am

    Is no one going to talk about how they dont even have clean drinking water yet are putting all this effort into wifi? Really?

  • Reply Manqoba Maphumulo April 12, 2019 at 10:14 am

    this is South Africa emthatha

  • Reply Ken Stevens April 12, 2019 at 10:47 am

    this is very impressive. they did a good job.

  • Reply Rakesh Biswas April 12, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Probably you haven't heard about the great INDIA.

  • Reply 70 CC April 12, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    south africa was built by whites, deal with it lmfao

  • Reply make happy and make fun April 12, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Whats the speed of internet? Per mb

  • Reply Core Man April 12, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    The host looks like BANGALORE!!!!

  • Reply Andrea Gaye Scott Westfall April 12, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    AT&T CHARGES ALMOST $100 a month for I think it was 10 gigs!?? Something like that! But it's absolute thievery!!!! I'm shocked more people like myself don't just start screaming at them all at once!!!!!

  • Reply SkyFlow Original April 12, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Even the students have a better phone than me, with a iPhone 10xs lol

  • Reply goatnad6970 April 13, 2019 at 1:15 am

    have wifi but cant clean up the trash you see all over… just fucking stupid. smh

  • Reply z z April 13, 2019 at 2:58 am

    And they don't have to pay.

  • Reply The Equalizer April 13, 2019 at 4:49 am

    7:11 that little shy guy

  • Reply Zaithe April 13, 2019 at 6:05 am

    5:15 hmm maybe interconnection like the internet?

  • Reply Zaithe April 13, 2019 at 6:06 am

    their language is beautiful

  • Reply Falcon April 13, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    5:21 has an iphone X?

  • Reply Elder PlayGames April 13, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    You want to change Africa. convince white people or Asians to move there. In 10-20 years it will become a great country. You of course will have to elect the same in government to allow those with higher intelligence run the country. That will change Africa for the better, not the crap-hole it is today.

  • Reply Ablute Google April 13, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    that is early wakanda

  • Reply Georgian Alpha April 13, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    "i am a god to them"
    lmao that went from 0 to 100 really quickly

  • Reply Dr. Genie Greentrees April 13, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Tesla is EVERYWHERE 😍

  • Reply NoVaKane April 13, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    "The shopkeeper" has a quest. .. sounds like a character in a game who at first unassuming but turns out to be very very important

  • Reply Jack alantern April 13, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    4:40 Porn

  • Reply hall01235 April 13, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    Ubiquiti – hell yeah!

  • Reply Zander April 14, 2019 at 2:03 am

    bruh they got iphone x while i got iphone 4

  • Reply Ed Lastimosa April 14, 2019 at 5:56 am

    yo bangalore

  • Reply 7EVEN 8IGHT April 14, 2019 at 7:04 am

    So, villagers from 3rd world countries are far more civilized and smarter than any 1st world redneck that has everything on their disposal. if this is not irony, then I don't know what is.

  • Reply Oraciana Knight April 14, 2019 at 11:18 am

    DIY Level 100

  • Reply Nagato Sarutobi April 14, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    With the stuff going on in South Africa I hope the reporter was safe!. But this is a good video. Africans do not need to rely on other nations they can build their own loving society.

  • Reply Reviewing Life April 14, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    And all of the kids casual is better phones than me iPhone X

  • Reply MarcusPRDX April 14, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I’m calling it, it’s wakanda

  • Reply zKampeR April 14, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows

  • Reply Thurnis Haley April 15, 2019 at 2:21 am


  • Reply SenpaiDentai April 15, 2019 at 4:44 am

    Great, now make them subscribe to PewDiePie.

  • Reply Destroyer April 15, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Anyone from Africa?

  • Reply BBMute April 15, 2019 at 11:24 am

    i thought they'd be shoving up some weird glowing roots into their ears like some Avatar shit like that

  • Reply Thedarkslender April 15, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Bet their Wifi speeds are better then mine

  • Reply Menko April 15, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    God the sound engineering is awful in this piece

  • Reply Motherland Curvz April 15, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    is this illegal? lmao

  • Reply DerFilc April 15, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Should I call you Mista?

  • Reply S C April 15, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Why was the slave trade an 80% Jewish run affair? Good to see our brothers in Africa getting more technology advanced.

  • Reply Nico Bellic April 15, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    They got electricity?

  • Reply radostin04 April 15, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    I wonder what the connection speed is

  • Reply XDaRkModzX April 15, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    They probably got faster speeds than most of us loll

  • Reply Titus Hew PR April 16, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    wakanda !!!

  • Reply Precept Bible Project April 16, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    We, the Israelites created the internet. The fourth beast, like with all things have taken credit or this invention like the do with all things. The appropriating mushrooms did not create this technology, but they control access and made the location for everything based on the number 666 (www). We created the fiber optic cable and virtually evreything that is civilizing and advancing. When you know the truth, the oppressor is recognized to be a thief that only comes to steal, steal, and destroy.

  • Reply SliminoDomino • Gaming and More April 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    When you realised they have faster wifi than yours…

  • Reply Reddblue April 17, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    5:16 Hol' tf up. They using an iPhone X?!

  • Reply Piman Mann Jaques April 17, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    The colonizers always find a way to intrude smh

  • Reply FacePalmNetwork April 19, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    I'm still confused how they got internet out there. Satellite? Cable? Fibre?

  • Reply Bother Gaming April 19, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    How you have a iPhone X without WiFi?

  • Reply Indieice April 19, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    anyone else notice the casual iPhone X on that student?

  • Reply KMcirca82 April 20, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    DIY is the African way

  • Reply Selena ocrran April 22, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Lovely 🌹🌹🌹🌹

  • Reply Tammy Manuel April 24, 2019 at 7:46 am

    Their must always be a group of people arguing about race. White or black those people did something great so for those saying black power or whites did it long ago how about you did it yourself.

  • Reply D c April 28, 2019 at 4:46 am

    If it wasn't for the corrupted government in Africa, Africa would be in the big leagues as well. It's sad to see so many countries with potential but their own people hold them down. Africa can thrive . Many of these countries all over the world can thrive.

  • Reply PeacesOfNiecy May 11, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Wow. This is very inspirational. I'd like to see more stories about the small and upcoming developments in Africa.

  • Reply Holly Maben May 16, 2019 at 2:42 am

    Surveying, yeah right. Get a pattern quick save a life. Peace.

  • Reply Tammy W May 17, 2019 at 2:09 am

    Love you sharing this. Let the light shine upon Africa. God Bless. 🌹🌹

  • Reply Zihnne Riley Demor May 20, 2019 at 2:30 am

    0.01 I knew it was South Africa by those houses

  • Reply Showemright YTchannel May 21, 2019 at 1:03 am

    That is a beautiful thing for these Israelites to accomplish such a thing .

  • Reply sulu laman May 24, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    It's like "I'm a god to them"😂😂😂😂 but is black people

  • Reply ルウインチャー May 26, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Porn. Just saved you a month of research Mr. Professor.

  • Reply Ondagubben May 28, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Live well done. you did this . we do this on a daily basis.

  • Reply Bobby W May 29, 2019 at 6:08 am


    The leaders of the community should patient all their advancements and ideas to deter intellectual property theft. …Because Many ideas are stolen by others who get the prototype secrets and then rush to file paperwork as if it (the network logistics, mode of operation, and economic opportunity) belonged to them. …secondly, anyone that comes in to “study” the operations of your network should be required to sign a non disclosure agreement. Many companies buy-out and or steal business opportunities in order to maintain a status quo of market share at higher prices.

  • Reply FrnnkEducation June 3, 2019 at 12:59 am

    you'll find the conspiracy everywhere hidden in soft language. south africa has the highest internet penetration, yet the highest prices for internet. so who is able to afford this highest penetration? oh, that's right. the neanderthal overlords. their time is coming. all non africans must be expelled. and like idi amin said, it has to be done quickly. you've spent years looting africa, no need to be gentle expelling this pestilent parasite

  • Reply camachovideos June 18, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    Awesome video! Although, I would have liked to see the Upload/Download speeds and where the main hub was located at.

  • Reply mboga100 June 22, 2019 at 2:41 am

    this is not a comprehensive story….what is the uplink/downlink service provider..they can not be just connecting multiple nodes
    and getting the internet….or are you saying it is a local network allowing the to exchange data and communicate locally…

  • Reply mboga100 June 22, 2019 at 2:44 am

    if you want this to be replicated for the whole continent think a complete story with solutions description would help different parts of africa mirror development…..

  • Reply Oneday Oneday June 29, 2019 at 1:24 am

    Africa the birth place of civilisation we are taking over the world am proud to be an African and am very black very very black

  • Reply john dexter miro July 8, 2019 at 7:44 am

    the best accent ever

  • Reply Gregory Campbell July 9, 2019 at 5:42 am

    If they’d make it Open Source and share how they built it, some people would be willing to share knowledge on how to improve it.

  • Reply Giselle X July 23, 2019 at 1:04 am

    Wonderful innovation!

  • Reply Shante Gumede August 19, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    I’m South African but didn’t know about this ! That’s crazy !

  • Reply Android Genius August 22, 2019 at 11:55 am

    POA internet from kenya

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