Syracuse University

40 in 2025: Liberian Sustainable Development by Internet Backpack

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Only 7.3% of Liberia's 4.7 million people have Internet access. As Liberia has emerged from UN peacekeeping missions and the deadly ravages of the Ebola virus, Liberia ranks 181 of 189 countries on the UN Human Development Index. Our multi-stakeholder team of innovators, educators and policymakers from the Government of Liberia, Syracuse University (SU), and Imcon International Inc. will deploy: a) 6000 Internet Backpacks with edgeware (both developed from SU research); b) a national unlicensed frequency network for education, healthcare, rural community, government and public (Wi-Fi'd Little Neighborhood Library) use; and c) train trainers, teachers, local entrepreneurs and community leaders. We will strengthen Liberia's educational, health and other systems, and demonstrate to the world how this new technological model works. As partners, our work can transform Liberia and provide data and evidence of an innovative sociotechnical model for changing the world.

Problem Statement

Due to extremely low Internet connectivity, most Liberians remain excluded from opportunities to improve their knowledge to help themselves and the economy recover from decades of civil war. In one of the poorest countries in the world, many suffer from a stagnant economy, inadequate infrastructure and the lack of public services. School-age children lack access to trained teachers and have extremely limited access to information. Young adults whose life experiences and education were marred by civil war, or whose families and communities suffered from the 2014 Ebola outbreak deserve help to meet their full human potential. Systemic change processes are needed to improve societal conditions. The collaborative Internet governance tools which helped grow the Internet, educate millions and create countless jobs and businesses are now needed in Liberia. The 'Liberian Inter-Agency Task Force and Advisory Group' (liatag.org) enables Liberian government ministries and regulatory agencies, local firms, technical communities, academics, civil society leaders and the international community to work together. In 2002, Professor McKnight and the Jamaican Office of Utility Regulation co-created the Caribbean Internet Forum, which brought multi-stakeholder Internet governance, undersea fiber and broadband to the Caribbean. Similarly, in Liberia, project partner Ben Wolo led the rebuilding of the telecommunications infrastructure after the Civil War, including construction of the undersea fiber around West Africa, and Monrovia's Cable Landing Station. Syracuse Professor Danielle Smith, President of the Liberian Studies Association, will contribute to the task of accelerating innovation with sustainable nationwide connectivity for education. Again, in partnership, we can transform Liberia.

Solution Overview

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, pallets of equipment for a low-cost, rapid-build, high-speed wireless network were flown in and deployed to assist recovery efforts. After the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal, similarly equipped pallets were flown in, without the usual bureaucratic obstacles to deployment of innovative solutions. Low Internet penetration in low-income countries is a humanitarian emergency. In Liberia, we intend to provide an innovative solution with the Internet Backpack powered model. Unlike in Nepal and Haiti where international aid workers were primary network users, Liberian schoolchildren and teachers will benefit from access to the tablets and other devices in the Internet Backpack, our curriculum, and the Unlicensed Frequency Network. By rapidly building out a wireless backbone network across all fifteen Liberian counties, the Internet will reach most communities. Also, distributing 6,000 Internet Backpacks and training school, hospital, and government users will dramatically accelerate social, educational and economic change across the country. We will train the trainers at accredited Liberian universities, colleges and community colleges to train Liberian teachers. Students will acquire new skills while increasing their capacity to engage in collaborative learning and entrepreneurial activities. We will measure success by metrics including growth in Internet penetration, learning outcomes, graduation and retention rates, and in the long-term, by significant increases in Liberian GDP growth rates.

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Project Funders

  • One Planet Educaton Network 2017 - 2019
  • Imcon Internaional Inc.

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