The Little Box That’s Bringing the World Wide Web to Rural Communities

Image: Question Box

Information and services save lives and help lift people out of poverty. How can rural residents access the world wide web? Question Box has a solution.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 04.18.16

Information and services save lives and help lift people out of poverty. How can rural residents access the world wide web? Question Box has a solution.

One fifth of the world’s population, 1.4 billion people, is illiterate while a further 20 per cent can only read in their local language. In many parts of the world, gaining access to the world wide web ranges from difficult to impossible. Phone call rates are high and accessing important information such as medical help, weather reports or market prices of raw materials is hard.

Addressing these problems is exactly what Question Box aims to do. The project began in 2007 as an initiative of Open Mind Company. Here’s the idea behind it: the living situations of many people can be improved by providing access to the right information at the right time. In the event of a catastrophe, natural disaster or outbreak of disease, it is critical to know what to do and where to go for help. Making all this available at the touch of a button is exactly what Question Box aims to do.

© Question Box

The initiative allows people to use telephone poles as a means of obtaining information or asking for help. How? Via a mobile signal, the poles are connected to a programme centre (or employees of the programme) and the call is free. The panels require little electricity and can run on solar power.

Empowerment through Knowledge

Question Boxes are already in use in a number of places like Liberia, where communities were able to receive vital updates about the Ebola virus. At the same time, Call Centre Hub in Monrovia collected incoming data to help keep aid organisations up-to-date on the latest developments concerning the virus.

In Uganda, eight rural hospitals were provided with Question Boxes, which are used to transmit emergency phone calls. There are also plans to convey first aid instructions to people via the Question Box. Isolated fishing communities in Uganda will also soon be able to use Question Box to obtain details about location, costs and availability of the nearest healthcare facilities before they set off on their journey. In collaboration with the Grameen Foundation, 40 Question Boxes have also been set up in 40 spots in Uganda as hotlines to field questions ‘round the clock about agriculture.

Via these measures, Question Boxes allow for the spread of important information within the framework of specific fields like medical care or improving economic conditions. They can also be used to collect data to provide a clearer picture about a situation on the ground and improve development or aid activities.

Translated from this article by Sarah-Indra that was originally published on our German platform.

WeFarm: Creating The Internet For People With No Internet

Small-scale famers living in remote rural communities the world over are set to benefit from a SMS application and a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing platform which allows for agricultural information and best practice to be shared, questions to be asked, and solutions to any issues they may encounter to be found.