By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A low-cost community cellular networks project of the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UP-D) and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) won in this year’s Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Awards.
Researchers and students from UP Diliman train the local fisherfolks of Brgy. Dibut on how to operate and maintain the VBTS towers (PCARI / MANILA BULLETIN)
The joint research project of the UP-D and UC Berkeley enables basic calls and text at a fraction of the cost versus traditional commercial cellular networks. The initiative entitled “Village Base Station-Connecting Communities through Mobile Networks” or VBTS-CoCoMoNets bested 236 other entries from 28 countries across Asia to grab the ISIF Asia Awards 2018, a program supporting creative internet solutions to development needs in the Asia Pacific to achieve positive social and economic development.
VBTS-CoCoMoNets’ project leader Dr. Cedric Angelo Festin from UP College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and project investigator Dr. Eric Brewer from UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, together with their team, will receive a cash prize amounting to USD3,500 or PhP185,500.
The VBTS-CoCoMoNets addresses the lack of mobile phone access by establishing community cellular networks (CCNs) in rural sites in the Philippines. The CCNs is a low-power, low-cost 2G base station that enables users to make basic calls and text in areas that traditional commercial cellular networks cannot reach.
To date, the following remote barangays in the Aurora province are benefiting from the VBTS-CoCoMoNets: barangay Dikapinisan, sitio Diotorin in barangay Dibayabay, barangay Dibut, and sitio Limbok Sabang in barangay Umiray These sites, nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains facing the Pacific Ocean, are home to some members of the indigenous peoples of the province. Two more CCNs are expected to be established by the end of the year.
Aside from the cash prize, the winners also bagged a travel grant to the 2018 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris, France on November 12 to 14, 2018. The project will also be featured as part of the Seed Alliance Awards ceremony on November 13, 2018.