Connecting the Dots for African communities
well-being Nov 3, 2022

Connecting the Dots for African communities

Japanese startup uses Wi-Fi router technology to help residents in rural Africa get online

by yui Sawada
J-STORIES - Throughout Africa, less than 30 percent of residents have access to the internet, and in rural areas, where the majority of the population lives, connectivity rates are even lower. 
Tokyo-based startup Dots for is working to change that, providing more than 50 villages in the West African nations of Benin and Senegal with internet infrastructure.
Founded in 2021, the company has been kitting out villages with Wi-Fi routers equipped with mesh network technology, a kind of distributed communication system. This is similar to a scaled-up version of home wi-fi extender networks and the same technology used to provide ad hoc internet access in emergencies.

CEO Carlos Oba says that if the internet had been readily available when he was younger it would have broadened his horizons.      Source: Dots for
CEO Carlos Oba says that if the internet had been readily available when he was younger it would have broadened his horizons.      Source: Dots for
The main advantage for remote African villages is that it is extremely low cost, and Dots for hopes to double the number of what it calls “Smart Villages” in the continent by the end of the year.
Residents who connect to the wireless network via their smartphones can also access digital content and services stored on servers located in their community. Dots for CEO Carlos Oba comments that this potentially can make a huge change to the lives of people living in rural areas.
Villagers in Senegal use one of Dots for’s Wi-Fi access points. A single device can be enough to service an entire village.     Source: Dots for
Villagers in Senegal use one of Dots for’s Wi-Fi access points. A single device can be enough to service an entire village.     Source: Dots for
Geography and income levels can make it hard for internet systems to be set up and for people to afford them, meaning they miss out on economic, educational, healthcare and other benefits that the internet can potentially provide.
Dots for's stated goal is to create a society where 200 million people living in rural areas of Africa can connect to the internet and enjoy its benefits by 2030.
This objective and its potential to change the lives of local people have been recognized by the Japanese government. Dots for has already received support from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to expand its work in Benin and Senegal.
CEO Carlos Oba (center) and COO Sho Nakata (right) with staff from Benin.     Source: Dots for
CEO Carlos Oba (center) and COO Sho Nakata (right) with staff from Benin.     Source: Dots for
Language and cultural differences can be a barrier, and sometimes local residents are reluctant to listen to “outsiders.” Consequently, the company has taken on 15 local hands to work on setting up internet access systems, which in turn has enabled the company to gain trust in the communities in which it is operating. 
CEO Oba told J-Stories that digital infrastructure to provide information can be the first step toward education, finding employment and increasing income. The ultimate aim, he said, is “to raise the quality of life of people living in rural African villages.” 
Translation by Tony McNicol
Top page photo by projectUA/Envato
For inquiries about this article, please contact us at jstories@pacifibridge.jp

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