Sámi Network Connectivity (SNC)

Published on: 26/11/2007

The Sámi Network Connectivity (SNC) process began with a project for the promotion of gender equality and women’s entrepreneurial capacities within the Sámi villages and reindeer husbandry. In key Sámi areas access is limited and unpredictable, as there is no wired infrastructure, only inconsistent wireless infrastructure and low telecom coverage; satellite coverage is expensive and intermittent. A solution has to address topographic circumstances (mountains), the fact that major areas are environmentally protected (which puts constraints on installing fixed infrastructure such as antenna towers and limits the availability of power sources), and the semi-nomadic nature of reindeer herding. It must also be accessible at an affordable and maintainable cost. The SNC approach is based on Delay Tolerant Networks (DTN), realized by an Opportunistic Routing system using a mix of 802.11 hotspots and mobile relays. The basic premise is that, in a solution that includes a hybrid of the SNC realization of DTN and current Internet technologies, basic access to Internet communication services can be delivered to remote and nomadic communities. This is technically challenging as semi nomadism brings the notion of probability to the design.

Policy Context

The SNC is endorsed by the Arctic Council, as a corner stone for Arctic Action ICT. The Arctic Council is a high-level forum for cooperation, coordination and interaction between Arctic states, indigenous communities and other Arctic groups. The effort is integrated in the UN processes UN GAID (Global Alliance for ICT and Development) through membership in the Community of Expertise on Gender and ICT.

Description of target users and groups

The Sámi Network Connectivity is being developed with the Sirges Sámi Village, in Northwest Sweden. A Sámi village is a community of reindeer herders. Sirges grazing area includes the Laponia World Heritage. Laponia is covers 9400 km2 and comprises four national parks and several other protected areas. This area is a cultural landscape for the indigenous Sá¡mi population; central for economy, culture and, reindeer grazing land for not less than nine Sá¡mi villages including Sirges. The most part of Sirges members live is Jokkmokk, situated slightly north of the Arctic Circle. The average density is 0.3 inhabitants per km2.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The SNC process began as a project for the promotion of gender equality and women’s entrepreneurial capacities within the Sámi villages. The project “Woman in the Sámi Village” was run by Sirges Sámi village as an EU social funds funded project between 2001-2003. Ms. Susanne Spik, reindeer herder and at the time board member of the National Sámi Federation in Sweden planned the project. Luleå University of Technology (LTU - www.ltu.se) was contacted for assistance. In the spring of 2002 a senior Internet architect, Avri Doria, at the time a guest researcher at LTU, presented an idea to this project, on how to establish Internet connectivity to support the economic activity of reindeer herding. LTU and Sirges have since worked towards a realization of the SNC network. This is done via projects and continuous contacts between key persons, including crucial input from Internet experts contributing pro bono. The work is iterative between R&D labs and field, locating activities to universities as well as the local community, (including on site field tests). Except for Sirges members, staff from the Internet portal SameNet has been actively engaged, including supervising several MSc level student groups doing projects in Jokkmokk.

Technology solution

The technical design of SNC includes the possibility of using the dynamic nature of human movement as the primary vector for network propagation in the last 100 kilometers. Studies have shown that this model can work. When it does work, however, it does not produce a continuous connection. To overcome the intermittent connectivity, Delay Tolerant Networking, can be used. If there is no other way of propagating information across the network, then a DTN can be used. Integrating DTN allows the Internet to reach people who are hundreds of kilometers, or more, away from existing infrastructure. Architecture and routing are central. The technologies include: - Bidirectional delay tolerant networking - Wireless technologies such as 802.11 (Wi-Fi), 802.16a/e (WiMAX), 802.20, versions of UMTS using different frequencies - Unidirectional/Broadcast DRM, Satellite Until now the SNC system has been tested in two field trials in summer and one in winter conditions within the Sámi village’s grazing district, generated cached web, e-mail and additional messaging software for DTN and – as basis for all of this – a routing algorithm (PRoPHET) with an Internet draft by Lindgren and Doria (2005), all downloadable on free and open software terms at the SNC web page.

Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards, Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The scenarios where a network such as SNC are expected to have an impact include: - Education/ distance learning: children and adult. Many of the families who live in communications challenged areas for part of the year are subject to family stress due to educational requirements. Adding the potential for distance education will allow for improvement in the circumstances of family life while maintaining social cohesion and existing modes of living. - Cooperative business: 'remote agent' usage/market knowledge. Often in communications challenged areas, local entrepreneurs are restricted in their ability to have commercial contact with markets that would otherwise be open to their products. - Customer contact: both from in-region and with the rest of the world - Resource management - Reporting and forecasting of weather and other natural phenomena - Disaster and other emergency management situations - Maintaining safety and disseminating on-site information for eco-tourism. After the SNC pilot project was been completed successfully in the summer of 2006 and confirmed with improved e-mail and cached web installations in 2007, the SNC project proved that a network that delivers basic Internet services can be built for the remote populations using DTN technology.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The project was presented in the Artic Edge Presentation in Brussels for, among others, the Swedish Commissioner Margot Wallström, on 10 October 2006. SNC has been presented to the Sustainable Development Working Group of the Arctic Council (March 2007). It has also been presented during the World Summit on the Information Society, phase I in Geneva December 2003. Finally, we have presented the case at the OpenAccess workshops annually arranged by the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - For providing connectivity to the challenging settings and have-not populations it is not neccessary to make variants on mainstream broadband solutions for urban areas and wealthy or highly subsides users. Creative solutions are perhaps the better choice. SNC, for instance, combines a technology originally developed at NASA for space communications, with elements of an ad-hoc peer-to-peer solution which very advanced urban users originally developed to cut their networking costs. Lesson 2 - Our experience is that the above in fact makes these challenging scenarios excellent venues for innovation, and cooperating with have-not user groups in addressing their genuine access needs a most worth while effort for advancement of the European technical level. Lesson 3 - To achieve eInclusion in areas where standard solutions do not function, more research is the key issue. But this need to be combined with development of the citizen’s competences, including that of local entrepreneurs and SME owners, so people can develop own applications and thus fully benefit from the Information Society.

Scope: Regional (sub-national)