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York academics to bring broadband to rural Nigeria

Photo credit: www.bbc.co.uk
Photo credit: www.york.ac.uk
Photo credit: www.york.ac.uk

Academics at the University of York are to embark on a ground-breaking project, which will explore how to best equip rural communities in Nigeria with low-cost broadband, it has been announced. This achievement will be realised through the emerging technology of high-altitude platforms (HAPs).

In the press release, announcing the project, which was provided by Alistair Keely, it was explained that:

HAPs are airships or solar-powered aircraft which are permanently located in the skies at an altitude of 20km, above aeroplanes but below satellites. The platforms are capable of delivering wireless services without the need for significant and expensive ground-based infrastructure.

Keely added that the University of York had experience of dealing with HAPs “going back 15 years”.

Professor David Grace, from the University of York’s Department of Electronics, also spoke of the enormous potential of the technology for remote communities who miss out on the high internet capacity enjoyed by the inhabitants of cities such as Lagos. He said:

It is a revolutionary technology which uses renewable energy and means rural communities no longer have to rely on diesel generators… It has the potential to be rapidly deployed and will provide the same level of service as you would get in an urban area, empowering communities and transforming lives.

The team at the University of York will be working in close collaboration with a Nigerian team, headed by Dr Abimbola Fisusi, who is a former PhD graduate of the University of York, and works in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. Another benefit of the project is considered to be the potential to develop close working ties between the two institutions. Dr Fisusi said:

Affordable broadband will result in an improvement in the livelihood of hard-to-reach rural areas of Nigeria… as it will give them access to a wider market, diverse learning resources, and expert medical advice. It will also enable prompt awareness of government programs and policies, enhancement of safety and security and effective communication with the outside world.

The findings of the initial exploration are due to be disseminated at a workshop held at the University of York in December.