Inveneo Mark Summer Archives

The Future of ICTs in Myanmar

  1. Posted by Aaron Mason on March 18, 2013 in the categories: Internal, News
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Attendees look on at the opening ceremony for BarCamp Yangon 2013. Photo: Mark Sum
Attendees look on at the opening ceremony for BarCamp Yangon 2013. Photo: Mark Summer

Recently Mark Summer, Inveneo’s co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, attended Myanmar’s BarCamp Yangon 2013. BarCamps are locally organized, free-form technology “unconferences” where participants are allowed to present with few limitations, and attendees can participate free of charge. There are no restrictions on who is able to speak or present; organizers are only required to take care of promotion, logistics, and infrastructure for the event while attendees proactively present and choose their own content.

This year’s Myanmar event was the fourth in the country’s history, and by far the largest, growing by 60% to 6,400 attendees. This also made it the largest BarCamp in the history of the event itself. Topics are scheduled daily, and amidst the flurry of action patterns of interest appear. Many are exactly what you’d find at a technology conference anywhere in the world – mobile apps, Facebook marketing, etc. – but the substantial presence of ICT policy, international development and a healthy “by Myanmar, for Myanmar” showing made this an especially interesting event from a ICT4D perspective.

BarCamp Yangon 2013’s fluid daily schedule of events. Photo: Mark Summer
BarCamp Yangon 2013’s fluid daily schedule of events. Photo: Mark Summer

Myanmar has a checkered past with technology. The country has been under military control since 1962 and has been cited with numerous human rights violations. Trade and other sanctions have made inclusion in the digital revolution challenging, if not impossible, as many of the technologies and markets supporting digital entrepreneurship are simply not available to the general public. Military and government-controlled mobile networks produce SIM cards recently costing upwards of US$2,000 (this number has recently been falling to $250) and digital marketplaces like the Apple and Android app stores are still unavailable due to trade sanctions. The 24th most populated country in the world lags with just 3% mobile and 2% facebook penetration. Even daily newspapers are off limits to the private sector, run instead by the state.

In the past few years, however, this has been easing. The military has been relinquishing control over the government, international relations are improving and doors are starting to open across every sector of the economy. This could prove extremely important for ICT as sanctions are expected to ease, licenses for cellular network operators are about to be issued, new ICT laws are being drafted and the international community is engaging more and more with the Myanmar government and local businesses.

At Inveneo we specialize in delivering technology solutions in emerging and underserved areas. Haiti, Kenya, Micronesia… These all fit descriptions you’re familiar with: a developing rural market with little access to social or economic resources. We’re very familiar with the deployment of technology and the patterns that follow surrounding adoption, market growth and sustainability. Connectivity starts as a trickle and quickly grows into a stable stream with demand increasing year over year.

Myanmar, on the other hand, is a dam about to burst.

The government has been freed to define ICT policy and an educated IT sector already exists. Local entrepreneurs are eager to catch up with their neighbors so it’s no surprise that this year’s Myanmar’s BarCamp is the largest in the world with everything from Unicode to Ubuntu – from fundamental Burmese language support to the latest in open source – on the table. This rare combination of eager talent, economic potential and budding support at almost every level is unheard of in most underserved areas, boasting huge immediate potential and a long runway for growth.

“The government is drafting ICT policy that will define how cellular networks and ISPs will function,” said Summer. “Everyone is waiting on this because it will decide where the market will go and what opportunities will be available.”

Attendees learn about ICT business models. Photo: Mark Summer
Attendees learn about ICT business models. Photo: Mark Summer

Even without a solid foundation for ICT development, entrepreneurship is rampant. One app developer Summer met built a business around iPhone app deployment without using the Apple App Store or the Internet. The service is USB-based and tracks the number of uploads to the account-holder’s phone, distributes apps at outlets across the country, collects and pays licensing fees – all offline. Examples like this highlight the country’s potential and beg the question: if an App Store business that works without the internet can thrive, what will we see when the floodgates of real connectivity are opened?

“This is probably where you’ll see a lot of other organizations going in,” said Summer. “There’s a large untapped market, really quite like thailand, that’s just now opening up.”

Summer’s goal in attending the BarCamp was primarily to understand the status of the ICT sector and the current environment for ICT4D and development in general. Inveneo’s focus is on bringing technology to underserved populations, and the solutions being developed in Myanmar may provide useful in other areas. It’s also just incredibly interesting to watch a country figure out ICT policy from the ground up.

“It’s important to understand what government and investments will be focused on, so you can look at what the next set of factors in the sector will be. There are even rumors of fibre being brought in,” said Summer. “But the big questions are all around accessibility and the general public.”

Mark Summer Interview at AstriCon Open Source Telephony Conference

  1. Posted by Inveneo on March 31, 2011 in the categories: Events, News
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AstriCon Open Source Telephony Conference and Exhibition is the longest running conference devoted to the Asterisk telephony platform. Our very own Mark Summer, Inveneo Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, gave the keynote speech at this year’s conference, and conference media staff interviewed him just before he took the stage.

Before the keynote, Mark discussed the use of Open Source technology and its role in expanding Internet access and communication opportunities, using examples from Inveneo’s work in Haiti and other underserved regions. He also spoke of the need for greater capacity building within local entities to manage ICT systems and issued a call to action to make Open Source even easier to use and adopt by local organizations.

Mark Summer to Keynote AstriCon Open Source Telephony Conference 2010

  1. Posted by Inveneo on October 25, 2010 in the categories: Events, News
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Mark Summer, veteran open source technologist and humanitarian, will deliver the keynote presentation at the seventh annual AstriCon Open Source Telephony Conference and Exhibition 2010, the longest running conference devoted to the Asterisk telephony platform.

Mark Summer is Inveneo’s Chief Innovation Officer, is a serial entrepreneur and world traveler, Summer has specialized in VoIP/IP networking architectures and operations management for more than 15 years. Having built and run several IT consulting and VoIP network design companies, he and his business partners founded Inveneo, a social enterprise dedicated to improving communications in remote and rural communities through open source technology.

In his keynote presentation, Summer will share his real-world experiences utilizing open source Asterisk to extend communications and unearth new opportunities in under-served communities in Haiti and Sub-Saharan Africa, complementing the conference theme of “Asterisk: The World is Calling.”

“The ability to place phone calls is often something we take for granted, but in many areas of the world this critical technology remains out of reach due to cost, complexity and implementation challenges associated with traditional telecommunications infrastructures,”
John Todd, Asterisk open source community director at Digium

Digium and its founder Mark Spencer have long been supporters of Inveneo and our model of bringing ICTs to deserving communities in some of the most challenging environments. AstriCon 2010 will take place from October 26-28, 2010, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

Vital Communications for Health Relief Efforts

  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 9, 2010 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Projects, Relief
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As we continue to expand and strengthen long-distance WiFi networks for NetHope members in and around Port-au-Prince, it’s a time of transition for Inveneo staff in Haiti.

Brian Shih and Oliver Jiang have replaced Mark Summer and Andris Bjornson, bringing new skills and energy to our deployment activities, which now include extending high-speed Internet access to select non-NetHope organizations, as opportunities arise. Relief agencies can use Inveneo’s Emergency ICT Help Request to be considered.

A Health Organization in Need

PROFAMIL, a Haitian reproductive health organization, provides mobile and clinic-based services to women and families in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and Port Prix, Haiti. PROFAMIL is a national member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The earthquake destroyed its clinic buildings in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, crippling its ability to provide its services to local Haitian communities – mobile health clinics for victims of the earthquake now living in tent cities. They needed Internet access to direct resupply and response efforts with national affiliate clinics in PROFAMILIA Dominican Republic and IPPF headquarters in New York City.

We first learned of their need via Inveneo’s Emergency ICT Help Request, and quickly mobilized to help. We brought high-speed Internet access to their new, post-quake location using our proven 7-step WiFi deployment process.

Immediate, Life-Saving Impact


Setting up PROFAMIL link

PROFAMIL couldn’t wait to use the new bandwidth. Before we had even finished, their doctors were making Skype phone calls to the USA with their iPhones. In the next few days, they completed long, reliable, high-quality Skype video calls on laptop computers.

PROFAMIL staff exchanged files, shared screens, and re-commenced their work providing pre- and post-natal care, counseling and family healthcare to PROFAMIL clients with urgent clinical needs. Amid the physical destruction viewable through the grainy laptop cameras, the voices and faces of the Haitian team were a source of strength to IPPF staff worldwide.

The reliable, stable and fast Internet connection afforded IPPF headquarters in NYC new avenues to start to rebuild infrastructure in a measured, sustainable fashion, including re-establishing supply chains for solar power, tents and medicines. This effort may have taken weeks or months without the Inveneo long-distance WiFi network.

PROFAMIL and its partners expressed their immense gratitude to Inveneo. To quote one person:

“You were careful not to over-promise, reflecting the reality of Haiti currently; your engineering expertise was on-point and thorough through installation and support; and the Internet service is rock-solid, especially notable in the fluid context of Port au Prince. Keep up your great work, you are supporting the work of global health NGOs doing critical, life-saving work in Haiti.”

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Expanding Our Impact

As we complete the initial NetHope network, we’d appreciate your support to help us bring life-saving communications to more organizations in Haiti. We hope you’ll join NetHope, the EKTA Foundation, Aruba Networks, the Orr Foundation, Steve Okay and Andrea Longo, and many of your friends and colleagues in supporting Inveneo’s Haiti response.

We are appealing for donations to cover the basic costs associated with this expansion of our Haiti relief efforts, including equipment, logistics and on the ground expenses. Please consider donating to Inveneo using PayPal or Google Checkout below.

Inveneo is a US-based 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization. If you are a US resident, and donate before February 28th, your donation may be tax deductible for the 2009 tax year.



All donations through February 28, 2010 will be used only for Haiti relief efforts, including the project to get connectivity to the major NGOs in Haiti.

Donate via Google Checkout

You can make a donation through this Google Checkout link:

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Donate via Paypal

You can make a donation through this Paypal link:

Donate via Check or Money Order

Or send a check to Inveneo:

    Inveneo
    972 Mission Street
    Fifth Floor
    San Francisco, CA 94103 USA

How to Deploy Long-Distance WiFi in Haiti

  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 2, 2010 in the categories: News, Projects, Relief
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As you can see from the network diagram above, Inveneo’s long-distance WiFi links connecting NetHope member organizations is starting to be far-reaching. Inveneo engineers Mark Summer and Andris Bjornson have been able to bring high-speed Internet access – critical communication capacity – to eleven relief agency locations with minimal equipment and installation time

Our long-distance WiFi network has made huge improvements in connectivity for NetHope member organizations. Some had no connectivity before. Others had limited connectivity, like a 160 kbit connection that jumped to 1.6 Mbit. That’s like going from 3 dialup connections to a cable or DSL connection.

These leaps in access have immediate impact when 20-100 people are sharing bandwidth at each location. International staff are able to make high-quality Skype video calls when before even voice calls were next to impossible, cutting resupply and rebuilding times by weeks or months.

We want to do more than just build out physical infrastructure; we also want to build the human capacity of local Haitian companies. Eventually, we hope they can deploy these technologies themselves, expanding the benefits of ICT beyond Inveneo’s direct reach.

While we’re fundraising for long-term capacity development, we’re going to start the process of knowledge dissemination with this primer on deploying long-distance WiFI links in Haiti

How to deploy long-distance WiFi links in Haiti

Inveneo has created a methodology for deploying long-distance wireless networks from our many years of work in Africa. So while Port-au-Prince presents it own set of logistical and communication challenges, we were able to install and manage a high-functioning network relatively quickly using these basic steps:

Step 1: WiFi Network Design

WiFi, like most radio technologies, works on the principle of line-of-sight – you have to see it to beam to it. So the very first step in building a long-distance wireless network is to make sure your nodes are visible to each other. We usually achieve this by conducting a site visit – we or an Inveneo Certified ICT Partner physically visits each site that will host a node and captures its GPS coordinates.

In Port-au-Prince, where transportation is difficult, we try to get as much information in advance as possible, starting with GPS locations. This isn’t always easy. Many agencies don’t have GPS devices, and those that do don’t always use them correctly.

We’ve been given coordinates that are miles off the actual location, a real issue when street signs are missing, landmarks are destroyed and the city has a dusk curfew. This is where OpenStreetMap is a godsend – volunteers are mapping locations with great accuracy and posting them online, which we can use in our planning (read more here).

Once we have the locations, we use Radio Mobile and Google Earth to design the network. Both use terrain data from the Space Shuttle to model the surface of the earth. With these tools, we find the correct angles, both azimuth (side to side) and elevation (up and down) that each antenna will need to achieve the highest gain (signal strength) between nodes.

Step 2: Location Capacity Survey

Now that we know where to place each node location, we try to make sure the site can support the required equipment: we confirm the site is physically secure, the building structurally sound, that there is a physical location for the equipment and constant, clean electrical power, that we can get roof access and that we can work with the organization’s IT staff as needed.

These might seem frivolous questions unless you’ve arrived at an African school after a several hour overland drive to find the headmaster expecting you to install computers in an empty room that doesn’t have desks, doors or window panes. In Haiti, we added the roof access question after Andris found himself climbing a rickety, bent ladder, with the real threat of a fall that might have sent him to already overburdened local medical facilities.

Step 3: WiFi Hub Antenna Pointing

From the design plan made up of the node locations, we first set up an antenna from our live network pointing in the direction of the new node.

In Haiti, a Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx is our location notepad – giving a good indication of direction, automatically compensating for magnetic declination (9.5 degrees in Haiti), and producing a compass bearing for use in the actual azimuth aiming of the dish. For elevation, usually less than 8 degrees or so, we use a bubble level to get the dish positioned properly and then (very technically) “bump” the dish to ensure accuracy.

Again, this dish is beaming WiFi into the wild at this point, without a receiving antenna set up (yet). So the next step is to install an antenna at the other end of the link, at the site that needs connectivity.

Step 4: Installation Trip Preparation

As any good engineer will tell you, detailed preparation makes all the difference in a deployment. So the night before we visit a hub location to install a node we make a complete packing list for each day’s loadout.. This includes the number of antennas, radios, switches, VOIP ATAs, etc.

Each piece of gear goes in a large Ziplock with all the other parts it takes to make it work – switches get packed with their power adapters, ATAs, phones, and patch cables go together and WiFi radio antennas get packed with their Power Over Ethernet (PoE) injectors along with the antenna mount bracket.

All this gear travels in extremely durable Pelican cases. We always take one large Pelican case that serves as a toolkit, large first aid kit, and consumable supply depot for equipment like electrical tape, duct tape, cable ties, and RJ45 connectors.

Step 5: Node Antenna Setup

Once on site, antenna setup goes fastest with at least two people – one as antenna jockey on the roof, the other as networking guru patching into the existing network or making one on the fly. In Haiti, it has tended to be Andris on the roof and Mark in the server room.

After Andris has climbed onto the roof, he hoists up the antenna equipment, and quickly reels off CAT5e cable for Mark. Running the cable from the roof to the server room (or WiFi hotspot location) is done first because it is one of the most time-consuming aspects of the implementation.

Now Andris sets up his antenna mount – we’re using speaker stands weighted with rubble and sandbags, and attaches a Ubiquiti Rocket M5 antenna and Rocket Dish for long links or a BulletM5 antenna and 25dBi grid dish for short-to-medium links.

Both of these antennas are point-to-point, transmitting 802.11n in the 5 GHz band, which is less cluttered than the 2.4 GHz band, regularly full of standard 802.11b/g WiFi traffic. And when we are patient with the aiming tools (GPS, compass, and level), the antennas can be aligned before we even need to use the radio software to align them. When finished, we usually see a -65 dBm signal level with each link.

Step 6: Disseminating Internet Access

While Andris is on the roof, Mark runs the CAT5e cable into the building and attaches it to the PoE injectors. PoE injectors send power over the 4 unused wires in the ethernet cables, so we can energize the Ubiquiti antennas without running a second cable. He then connects to the existing network through a Cisco switch.

When there isn’t an existing network, we use either the Ubiquiti Nano2 or the Ubiquiti Pico2 as a local access point. This is often the case in Port-au-Prince, where the existing infrastructure is often unusable, usually because the building is damaged or unsafe. Then a Nano2 provides great directional wireless access, say for an outdoor office and a Pico2 gives good indoor omni-directional coverage.

Step 7: Network Management

Putting up the network infrastructure might be hard, but managing the network once it is up is equally challenging. Each computer at every location requires its own unique IP address, and every computer wants to communicate with remote servers outside of Haiti at the same time. Yet there is only so much bandwidth at any one node and at the uplink point.

With eleven nodes and counting, we’re very lucky that the OpenNMS community, developers of the first enterprise grade network management platform, have taken on Inveneo’s network in Haiti to help us manage user needs. OpenNMS Group has even given us a free commercial support account. Using OpenNMS, we’ve been able to monitor network usage and then use other tools for traffic shaping, making sure that each user, at each node, has equal amount of bandwidth for his or her communication needs.

Learning More About Long Distance WiFi

If you’ve read this far, you will probably be interested in our long-distance WiFI solutions and how we and our Certified ICT Partners can bring Internet access to rural and underserved communities in the developing world.

You can learn more by following us in real-time via RSS, Twitter, or Facebook. And if you’re interested in working with us, please complete our client inquiry form.

Inveneo Preparing for Haiti – ABC 7 News Interview

  1. Posted by Inveneo on January 27, 2010 in the categories: Events, News
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The local ABC News affiliate interviewed Kristin Peterson of Inveneo around our preparations for responding to the Haiti earthquake. You can learn more about your actions at http://inveneo.org

Creating WiFi Links to Save Lives in Haiti

  1. Posted by Inveneo on January 22, 2010 in the categories: News, Relief
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Today’s Status

This morning, Inveneo’s team on the ground in Haiti, CIO Mark Summer and Engineer Andris Bjornson, started deploying the first of 15 long-distance WiFi Internet links for NetHope partner organizations across Port au Prince.


Long-distance WiFi links to relief

They started by connecting an Inveneo R4 Hub Server to the VSAT satellite Internet downlink from ITC Global, and installing a local access point for the CHF International headquarters.

Then they created two long-distance WiFi links from the headquarters of CHF International, to two different offices of Save the Children in Port au Prince. The first link was around 2.5 kilometers long. Later this afternoon they established a third link to the offices of Catholic Relief Services.

This is the start of the network we plan to establish within the next two weeks. The final result will be a redundant, high-speed Internet connection shared via long-distance WiFi antennas with 15-20 NetHope member agencies. This new connectivity will open the flow of information within and among agencies and speed the delivery of critical relief services.

The Need is Great

This communication network cannot come fast enough for the people of Haiti. Here is Mark Summer’s description of Port au Prince he’s seen while driving between WiFi installations:

Driving around you see many collapsed or significantly damaged buildings, often right next to completely intact ones. Here in the hills the damage is significantly less then down in the center of PaP where in it seems that in many areas more then 50% of the buildings are gone or beyond repair.

We’ve seen buildings that have had two or three stories and now no higher then 5 feet of the ground – it seems as if walls just turned into sand…

Many Haitians now live in parks, parking lots or simply in the street (often a whole road is closed because people now live it in) under tarps or in tents. You see people bathing on the side of the road, cooking in the street or parking lots etc.

Currently the weather is very pleasant warm (in the 80s) but not too humid in the day and a nice cooling off in the evenings but not too cold. Once it starts to rain here things will be decidedly more unpleasant for the people living in the parks, streets and back yards.

Expanding Our Impact

We’ve already received requests for assistance from other organizations in Haiti (ICT Request Form). As we gain a better understanding of local conditions and local partner resources, we hope to expand our impact and establish lasting ICT capacity in Haiti. We still have the long-term goal to expand our innovative technology model into the country.

In these efforts, we’d love for you to stay involved. You can follow us in real-time via RSSTwitterFacebook, or Youtube.

How you can help

NetHope has agreed to provide funds to cover the cost of equipment and the EKTA Foundation has generously supported the initial deployment. We are making an appeal for donations to cover the quickly escalating costs associated with our Haiti relief efforts.

Please donate to Inveneo using PayPal or Google Checkout below. Inveneo is a US-based 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization. If you are a US resident, your donation may be tax deductible.

All donations through January 31, 2010 will be used only for Haiti relief efforts, including the project to get connectivity to the major NGOs in Haiti.

 


Donate via Google Checkout

You can make a donation through this Google Checkout link:

Donate via Paypal

You can make a donation through this Paypal link:

Donate via Check or Money Order

Or send a check to Inveneo:

      Inveneo
      972 Mission Street, Fifth Floor
      San Francisco, CA 94103 USA