“I lost my job because they could not call me to say I’m hired.” said Pedro, when asked about how life was different back home. Pedro belongs to a remote village in Mexico. He recently graduated from a college in the city. After taking an on-campus interview with a firm he left for home. To make a call or check his e-mail Pedro would periodically travel to the nearest town, which was 5 hours away. On one such day, his e-mail represented the wider impact of living off the grid.
For most of us, the world is a small place. The telecom wires, towers and signal bars on our cell phone keep us in touch at all times, from any corner of our world. Every facility and every person is just ‘a phone call away’. While we take a connected life for granted, there are people and communities who walk miles to make that one phone call.
So why can’t all these places come on the grid? Installation of telecom infrastructure requires big investments and companies work on profitability. Mostly, the population in these remote areas is too less to reap profits against the firm’s investment. This leaves thousands of communities spread in the hinterlands, without a line or GSM network.
It’s not just about being able to speak on the phone. Connectivity enables and propels development of the people and the place, through knowledge and resource sharing. Santiago is a tomato farmer in a Mexican village and he incurs heavy losses, despite the local government’s program of texting alerts to farmers. With poor to GSM network, “we never receive weather alerts on time,” he rues. It is unfortunate and unfair that profitability of few firms define the fate of these communities.
However, for some people like Isabel Cosme, the fate lay in their effort of combining will with innovation. “Zero connectivity fuelled my intent to work for my community’s welfare,” she said, after successfully breathing life into the cell phones of her community. How did she do this? We will show you next week.