A recent study by the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reports that more than half the global population remains unconnected to the Internet.
The biggest barrier to addressing this digital divide is incumbent telecommunication providers that focus on near term profit in building out infrastructure, rather than the long-term benefits to local communities than come from connectivity.
Building out state of the art fiber-optic infrastructure to homes and businesses – the last mile – can be expensive although there have been many public-partnerships to build out the middle mile in areas where residents remain underserved.
The long wait for profitability in areas that are economically disadvantaged and/or have low population density is imply not attractive to business that are most concerned about the next quarterly report to their shareholders.
The next generation 5G wireless services are much faster but have shorter range – so the bottleneck to better connectivity for everyone will increasingly be a wireless last mile to existing fiber in the middle of the global telecommunications network.
The solution is what I have termed a Zoetic Network – zoetic is term relating to life and biological processes. Zoetic Networks use biological processes as the inspirational springboard to create business and organizational models that can combine aspects of traditionally (often adversarial) roles of customer, employee, manager, investor and owner.
Zoetic Networks use the blockchain to create DAO’s, decentralized autonomous organizations, that propagate the way vines spread with runners along the ground. Zoetic Networks implement the concept of a Distributive Enterprise – a social enterprise that focuses on open economic development – using a distributed software platform. A Distributive Enterprise has open replication – independently by others or with incubation assistance – at the core of its operational strategy. As such, this differs from a traditional franchise – in that there are no strings attached. Replication of the distributive enterprise to ‘compete’ in a truly free market is encouraged.
The Zoetic Network starts with a blockchain based coop model for community wireless networks which will avoid some regulatory issues by functioning as buyers club rather than a traditional telco or ISP. Buildout of local infrastructure will be incentivized with a system of credits for creating access to new bandwidth based on Ethereum. Coop members aggregate residential broadband – with wireless and fiber backhaul when available – through a virtual private network (VPN). The wireless network also creates resilience by making local communication and information resources available in the event of a disaster.
In this first phase of the Zoetic Network, it acts as both a consumer advocate and group buyer for existing broadband services, while evolving into an independent service provider on its own.
The longer term goal is to use these networks as the foundation for local economic development, especially in disadvantaged areas. In rural areas that would include helping farmers use data analytics in the cloud and to market their products online. In urban areas, educational/community centers would create maker spaces that would evolve into hubs for light manufacturing using 3D printing.
The Zoetic Network makes resources – group purchases, educational resources, seed funding – through an increasingly global network as it expands. At the same time, it operates bi-directionally, rather hierarchically, making the local resources – and expertise gained – available globally.
The first node of the Zoetic Network may have a direct role in operating a forprofit business at the beginning, but the goal is to empower local communities to take direct control as they they are able and then move on, retaining an advisory and support role.