Making internet access available to every person on the planet is one of the United Nations development goals and an important objective of the Internet Society. As billions of people still lack access to the internet, setting up community networks – telecommunication infrastructure operated by citizens to meet their own needs, has become a well championed approach to expanding internet access. The positive evidence of the impact community networks can make continues to increase exponentially, however, there are quite a number of challenges involved in deploying and operating community networks such as sustainability, local and regional regulations, socio-cultural dynamics, technical aspects and services etc.
We still have just scratched the surface of what blockchain technology can do for the world. Even through blockchain technology continues to permeate through every aspect of our lives, both real and virtual, there is still a lot to uncover. Blockchain could play a huge role in community networks. This technology could improve community networks sustainability after there are deployed. Community networks are dependent on an input-output balance, one in which the contribution has to equal or be greater than the consumption, and community networks being a volunteer effort, this balance is difficult to maintain in the long-run. Some community network initiatives in developing countries often die-out because of this.
Blockchain could be a solution. It gives us the power to create sustainable economic models and systems for management and strategic monetization of networks. A model of thought could be to transform these peer-to-peer networks into permissioned networks with monetized data-streams.
With blockchains immutable record keeping, every person can contribute to the network, data can be capped for all participants and the data-streams can be monetized to make sure there is always a balance of resources to maintain the network. Further, specialized crypto-currencies can be design and used to balance the needs of sustaining the network.
As exciting as blockchain technology is, there is still a lot to unravel and it still has a huge part to play in sustaining and advancing the adoption of community networks