In a developed society, using the internet has become a part of our everyday routine. It often constitutes our working day, as well as time spent relaxing in the evening - in fact, the idea of living without it might now feel impossible. However, 37% of the world’s population have never used the internet - that’s close to three billion people. This is what’s known as the digital divide: the gap between the population that benefits from an internet connection and those who don’t have access to it. Even amongst the remaining percentage who do have access to the internet, hundreds of millions may only use it from time to time, or have poor quality of service due to low connection speed and high delay.
Michael Dazhi, a doctoral researcher at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg, won second prize for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region of the Internet for All competition, run by the communications society (COMSOC) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). In the contest, each participant had to develop a viable proposal to provide internet to neglected communities in different regions of the world. In December 2021, Dazhi, who is part of SnT-s Signal Processing and Communications (SIGCOM) research group, submitted a proposal with the objective of providing connectivity to areas of France with low population density, which in February won him the second prize of $2,000.
-Winning second prize was a brilliant outcome. We as researchers at SnT have the responsibility to source technical and innovative solutions to problems that exist in our world. Bringing connectivity to unreached areas of the planet is one of these challenges - and the solution must be affordable and robust enough to meet the demands of not just individuals, but organisations as well. With so much of our world revolving around demanding online applications - including e-health, e-learning and e-commerce - it-s a very important problem that needs our attention,- Dazhi shared.
Within his proposal, he identified three areas of France - Meuse, Creuse and Manche - that are underserved by telecom operators, as it-s deemed to be an unprofitable area to provide network coverage. Informed by his research area of satellite and terrestrial systems, Dazhi proposed a ubiquitous communications technology able to send high amounts of data in short periods of time, that could be deployed with high flexibility to meet dynamic traffic demands. The technology is also one that is cost-effective for subscribers, and would mean that terrestrial communications operators would not need to deploy multiple base stations to provide the service. In fact, there would be no limitation to the coverage it could provide. While the proposal consisted of the technical solution, he also proposed a project management implementation strategy, with marketing ideas and a budget plan based on a fictitious budget of $12,000.
Competitions such as IEEE COMSOC’s Internet for All provide a playground for researchers to explore possible scenarios in which they can apply their research outside of their day-to-day projects. Calling upon the experts that IEEE has within their ranks, there is hope that researchers could provide the solution that will connect all communities around the world, so that they can better access healthcare, education, social services and participate in the global and local economies.