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Rural internet access regarding citizen’s science in the service of climate change adaptation and mitigation.



Problem and context: Rural communities in Colombia are vulnerable as they have been historically behind on many factors such as education, information, and technology. This fact created a gap on climate change awareness and sustainability issues altogether. In 2015 the global rural population was around 46%, in Colombia, it was about 24%. Additionally, this population is physically and virtually uncommunicated to the world (bad roads and bad internet access). However, as the younger generations gain more access to 3G technologies or similar access to information and to a world of virtual infinite opportunities is enabled –but only if the internet is available-. Therefore internet itself is the fundamental tool. In some countries, like in Germany, the internet is a human right.  We know that internet access is a driver for development and a valuable tool for both adaptation and mitigation of climate change hazards in vulnerable communities in the Colombian Andes.


Our solution is to prepare vulnerable rural communities in Colombia for climate-related hazards in a simple way: increase internet access to enable and engage youth as agents of change (more informed younger generations) in their own society and rural context. Having internet access does not guarantee a positive impact regarding climate change, but the lack of it does guarantee unfeasibility to be at least informed regarding such pressing issues in a global perspective, thus rendering any action towards adaptation and mitigation of climate change impossible.


The theoretic framework for this approach is called “Citizens Science”, and it has already been applied in a wide range of contexts from ornithology to urban spaces. Expanding it to adapt to our idea will be feasible due to the already existing framework and community. 

What actions do you propose?

There are no physical actions to be adopted that will have a direct impact on climate change, an indirect impact on climate change, however, would most certainly happen. This is due to the fact that we strive to get young people motivated to be educated through constant discussions on what is happening locally and globally sustainability wise. We are passionate about sustainability issues and believe that we have the capabilities to motivate other people.

The physical actions that we foresee will be adopted, and will have an impact on climate change are:

Increased internet availability will reduce inequality between urban and rural realities in Colombia, this is a key sustainability issue from a Colombian regional perspective.

Through guidance, via systems thinking capabilities via DIY workshops it will become a tool for young people to become interested in sustainability issues.

 The internet will become a tool for young people to become interested in sustainability issues and even decide to get educated and go to the university, thus further reducing the inequality gap.

Increase youngster independence and awareness regarding what they can achieve in a lifetime through understanding science and culture.

Through guidance via DIY (Do It Yourself) workshops, young people would be enabled to replicate the (and devices made) in other places.

The social actions that will encourage adoption of the physical actions are based on community engagement towards the evolution of behavioral norms with a sustainability framework. This is to say that the sustainability thinking framework we would use in every activity will convey the message of thinking about one’s own actions relative to local, national, and global outcomes.

Additionally, if we include changes in economic incentives relative to rural population daily activities (such as the way is farmed), and we start a switch from a market-oriented agriculture to an ecological agriculture (that is supported via the information found on the internet), we will definitely have an impact on climate change, secure food security for the communities, and motivate younger generations to understand and think about this complex topics.

The idea materializes by means of a practical participatory methodology using already existing technologies, as follows:

First, the internet arrives home.

In the first step, we need a location of a flagship project. This place is in the rural areas of a town called Jardín in Antioquia, Colombia. We already know that cellular networks already cover the area. The wide range of cellular networks cover in Colombia is an implicit carrier of internet access. The arrival of 3G/4G technologies to Colombia –and Jardín- already happened, thus people already use tablets and smartphones, additionally signal cover is quite wide even in mountainous regions. Young rural generations (even poor) have a smartphone or a tablet since it has become an adolescent desire.

An obstacle that we realized and overcame is that the signal in mountainous regions can and needs to be amplified by different means. For example by antennas (see a prototype in the image of the idea). These antennas are one of the main actions of the project. These could be made in DIY workshops sessions with young members of the communities, this is part of the community activation and engagement step.

Second, the internet is made for ALL. Signal converters (from 3G/4G to WiFi) are repurposed as follows: We repurposed (hack) old and wasteful routers that populations in urban areas have at home (and no longer uses) into 3G to WiFi converters using open source software (the image is the first prototype). This is something a standard cell phone could do but in a smaller range. We intend to do an integral solution. This means that we will generate a space of learning and collaborate, but with the internet understood as a tool. This step needs a space – in the form of a technological hub -, that has additional services: such as a broad and strong signal meant to gather young people into different workshops. This is a place where information from the internet is shared, discussed and most importantly, opportunities are recognized and taken. It serves as a creation hub for other internet devices (antenna + signal converter into wifi) that will be distributed to schools, homes, and communal spaces for other members of the community to profit.

Other than that, this idea makes sense on its own since it will have a clear socio-economic impact in the communities implementing it. A symbolic representation of the future world around this idea is like a space created around and antenna with the availability of tools, collaborating spaces, books, etc. A co-working space younger generations would meet for a set of available activities revolving around the internet found DIY opportunities. Some major topics will frame the decoration of the space such as what is climate change, how it would affect the neighboring regions and how adaptation and mitigation would see for the local context. For example a Maloka with an antenna on top! It would have access to water and self-providing electricity, with a kitchen or space to have a warm meal always, it would be a meeting point for rural communities. Taking into account the tropical climate and altitude of Jardín in Colombia the requirements are not very difficult to comply since there is no winter or extreme heat to be protected from. The next image is a visual representation of what it might look like. 

Who will take these actions?

The key actors for this project are best described after a participatory session to create common futures based on a Strategic Foresight methodology related to regional development. Through this, we would engage both decision makers and main users of the project via anticipation towards strategic action: prospective for proactivity.

However we can list the following so far: Jardín’s mayor’s office to guide us in the legal framework of what we could and could not do, Los Andes coffee growers cooperative to engage a large audience and gain community acceptance, Medellín citizen organizations to support coordination of activities to recollect materials, telecom companies as internet service providers, cultural ministries, international funds to support people constantly working on the project, among others. We need a service designer, a design thinker and I am an engineer with a passion for sustainability.

Where will these actions be taken?

The location where the actions will occur are as follows:

Jardín in Antioquia is a small town located close to 1.700 m high, but since it has a tropical weather it could be compared to an eternal spring. This means that outside areas are most of the time available to do different activities.

Local young communities in Jardín, Antioquia would be engaged. This means going to schools and local young populations to recruit and lure them into getting to see the space and how awesome it will be and then realizing the amount of stuff they can do there.

Materials need to be recollected and transported from the nearest biggest metropolitan hub: Medellín, with around 5 million people (in the metropolitan area) and we enough resources, we are certain we can secure enough materials (old routers and materials to make antennas) to develop such a project.

Finally, we identified the form of our climate-related hazard and they are mostly land-slides. This is because our target communities are vulnerable rural areas in the Colombian Andes (Jardín). Thus, mitigation and prevention of landslides are highly correlated to the type of use for the land, thus issues with direct and indirect land use change (LUC and ILUC) need to be informed and managed via a participatory approach. Internet access enables that a strategy towards such mitigation actually happens. So we are enabling channels for the communities to be aware of the risk chains cascading from their own actions regarding systemic relations between human and natural systems.

What are other key benefits?

EXTRA: We believe we can increase data availability for science. Climate data on tropical countries is very scarce and unreliable, sometimes inexistent. For example, in Colombia only in 2014 public climate data was made free, before that, even universities had to buy this data. Climate data per se is difficult to measure directly on these difficult-to-access areas and environments. Scientist today recur to proxies and other creative methods to obtain this data which is sometimes inexistent. This is a problem for the IPCC regarding climate data, particularly in tropical countries. Finally, human perception can exceed normal data censoring (uses the five senses plus the brain). It can, for example, tell shapes, name different plants, birds, insects, recur to memory, etc. By this, gather more valuable information and data for the scientists in the world would be possible. This idea can launch a new kind of research by providing a new kind of data.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The foreseeable economic cost in USD for the first year is:

Construction materials 20000

Bureaucracy and legal 2500

Marketing materials 2500 $/a

Logistic 2500 $/a

Administration (one person) 15000 $/a

Design (one person) 15000 $/a

Land (if not donated) 50000

Total 107.500

The following years it would be reduced to about 40.000 $/a

Some of the negative side effects of the proposed actions is that someone takes advantage of the trust environment and steals materials from the Maloka. Other than this we do not foresee bad side effects of people getting educated and inequality is tackled via opportunities.

Time line

The phase 1 (5-15 years) will cover the following actions:

Get acceptance and engage the community and strategic actors via the Strategic Foresight methodology towards future creation workshops (Godet & Durance, 2009). Get founding and permissions, locating the physical space or the land where it would exist. Constructing and making the Maloka a place where young people would like to be. Gain permission from parents and schools to get children to go there and get to use the space. Build the first signal makers and at the same time build a physical social network. Get a few of youngsters motivated to go to the university.  

In the following phases, the replication to other cities and a franchise type of social project would take over the project. 

Related proposals

I believe this proposal has an impact in the following proposals since it creates the foundations for more people to actually be aware of them:

·         Agriculture and Forestry Workspace 2016

·         Waste Management Workspace 2016

·         Energy Supply Workspace 2016

And it relates to the following peer proposals since their work is internet based:

·         Planetary Emissions Early Warning & Financial Management (Insurance) System / Gaia Monitor

·         Open source Climate Design solutions /  richbalauro

·         Incentivized disaster preparedness & gamification /  SAADITHYA

·         eMentorship for Local Social Entrepreneurs /  Hope4Change1

·         ShieldNet /  saadithya


Boase, J. (2010). The Consequences of Personal Networks for Internet Use in Rural Areas. American Behavioral Scientist, 53(9), 1257–1267.

Dlodlo, N., & Kalezhi, J. (2015). The Internet of Things in Agriculture for Sustainable Rural Development. 2015 International Conference on Emerging Trends in Networks and Computer Communications (ETNCC), (MAY), 13–18.

Godet, M., & Durance, P. (2009). Strategic Foresight For Corporate and Regional Development. DUNOD. Retrieved from

Kenny, C. J. (2000). Expanding Internet access to the rural poor in Africa. Information Technology for Development, 9(1), 25–31.

United Nations. (2015). Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development Goals, 31.