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CITP Lunch Seminar: David Johnson – Empowering and Connecting Africa with Community Owned Networks

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


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Video available here.

Cellular connectivity has provided impressive Internet growth in Africa over the past decade, but according to the ITU, in 2017, Africa only had 20% of the population using the Internet; a laggard compared to 40% in Asia & the Pacific and the 50% world average. We have connected the easy half of the population and connecting the next half of the world will require new innovative thinking.

This talk will demonstrate how community owned network technologies and organizational structures in Africa have been used to provide access in hard to reach places where there is a lack of market incentive or provide lower cost access solutions or where telecomm operators are exploiting their market dominance. In addition, we will show how community owned networks aim to move the locus of control of telecommunications infrastructure and content back into the hands of citizens. Some of the alternative connectivity technologies that will be discussed include TV and Cellular White Space technology, mesh networks, and micro-clouds. David will also discuss his current work at CITP on combining blockchain technology and mesh network to incentivise expansion of a mesh network and enable users to easily become Micro-WISPs.


David Johnson is currently a visiting IT policy fellow at CITP and an adjunct senior lecturer in the Computer Science Department at the University of Cape Town where he leads the Net4D (Networks for Development) lab.  He received his Ph.D. in computer science at University of California at Santa Barbara in 2013, advised by Elizabeth Belding. He has published approximately 40 articles in the area of computer networks, wireless connectivity and ICT for Development.

His research is focused on developing decentralized network technology, policies and regulation that enable communities and individuals to own their own network infrastructure and services. He has helped design and build Africa’s first rural wireless mesh network and led a number of connectivity projects in the area of small cell, mesh technology and edge-hosted services in Zambia and South Africa.  He has also led policy work on broadband expansion and spectrum management for the South African government, including contributing to South Africa’s finalized TV white space regulation and modelling future high demand spectrum for a new National Wireless Open Access Network. His current research interest is in TV and Cellular White Space technology, blockchain combined with mesh networks and community network micro-clouds .

CITP Lunch Seminars are open to Princeton faculty, staff, and students only. Members of the public who would like to attend a particular talk should contact Jean Butcher at .

In an effort to support sustainability at our events, attendees are encouraged to bring reusable items for their personal use.

To request accommodations for a disability, please contact Jean Butcher, , 609-258-9658 at least one week prior to the event.