October 10, 2019

Mobile Mesh Devices Keep a School Running in Venezuela

In the midst of economic and political crisis, Venezuela is a tough place to keep a school running. Electricity is routinely cut off, gasoline is increasingly hard to afford, and the risk of violent protests in the streets is ever present. This all makes it difficult, even dangerous, for children and teachers to get to school and make it through a day productively and safely.

Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, has seen regular blackouts over the past several months. Some have lasted as long as three days at a time, and phone lines have also gone down. At the British School in the city, communication is critical to ensure a secure environment for students and staff. About a third of teachers at the school are expatriates and have less familiarity with the area.

Yasir Patel, who heads the school, was looking for a way to stay in touch with his teachers even during outages. A board member told him about goTenna Mesh. Patel decided to try out a few units and said they all immediately worked very well. He decided to equip all his expat teachers with a Mesh and training in its use.

“The feedback from the teachers has been great – not one teacher has had a problem,” Mr. Patel said following a recent test of the system.

The Mesh devices were able to communicate in the 2-3 km range where teachers live, even in crowded and mountainous Caracas.

goTenna Mesh devices establish a mesh network of peer-to-peer connections so users can send messages through the closest device and bounce them along a chain, secure and encrypted, until they reach their recipient. That means that no internet or cell towers are needed – just the antenna inside the Mesh, and the bluetooth connection of a phone or similar device.

Venezuela appears to be on the brink of civil war. Talks between the two opposing political sides falter and start again periodically, and the country’s economic conditions are unlikely to improve soon. That last problem is likely to prolong the tension. Mr. Patel hopes that having an extra layer of communication coverage for the school’s staff will improve preparedness in the event of conflict. Especially for the international teachers who will want to remain in touch with their family and friends over long distance.

Mesh devices are tailor-made for the sort of conditions prevalent in Venezuela, and they have proven useful to many activists in the area as well as Patel’s teachers. The more goTenna Mesh users in an area, the better the coverage. In Venezuela, as in other volatile parts of the world, this can mean the difference between life and death.

About the Author

Ben Parisi has a background in research, international development, and campaign organizing. As a writer and editor for In The Mesh, he’s interested in the politics of decentralization in technology and society.

This article was first published on In the Mesh. Read the original article here.

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