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WHAT WE DO

Starting with the COMMUNITY BUILDER SYSTEM, CONCERO CONNECT helps to build communities by providing Sustainable Broadband and Financial Inclusion Services anywhere in the world!

From interactive video education and job training, to health and agriculture information services, just imagine all the things that can be done with affordable and sustainable Broadband Internet and Financial Inclusion services available.

Let us know how we can work together to build communities around the world.

COMMUNITY BUILDER SYSTEMS COME 3 WAYS.  Alway with Solar Power.  The first type is a stand alone system, like you see below.  The best way to ship these is 3 to a 20' container.

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What do you get with a 20' Container?  A buiding!  You can also add the solar power and connectivity to make the container a business, a school, a post office, or even a heathcare clinic.

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Let's Talk About Adoption - By David Stephens, and Dr. James Mayfield, Co-Founders of Concero Connect, L3C

Many organizations seeking to introduce village-Level Internet systems assume that once a functioning system is in place, their job is done. This is almost never the case.

David Stephens, Concero Connect Chairman and Co-Founder

"Initially, I thought it would be possible to create an Internet connectivity system that had a clear and profound impact on the lives of villagers and then leave, assuming that adoption should occur naturally. Well, shame on me.

Starting in 2000, I spent 10 years as an advisor to 2 Navajo Nation Presidents while working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide broadband Internet connectivity and computers to a remote 27,000 square mile desert area in the southwest USA (the Navajo and Hopi Nations.) At the time, less than 22% of the people there even had phones. Since then, I have worked on the Amazon, and in Central America and many other remote villages around the world. I have learned an awful lot about adoption of technology in emerging nations during that time.

First and most important, you learn to love whom you serve.

I remember in 2001 when we were installing the first of hundreds of satellite broadband Internet systems along with wireless local loops plus computers and solar panels, a Navajo elder walked up to me and asked, “What are you doing here?” Of course I was enthusiastic in my reply and told about how this new technology was going to help the Navajo people get education, economic opportunity, better health, community development, public safety and so much more.

The Navajo elders’ response was, “You Pilgrims are all the same. You come out here and spend your money and proudly build these big expensive sand castles, and you feel good about yourselves. Then you leave. Pretty soon the rain comes, the wind comes and the sand is flat again.”

Not only was this a lesson for me, way back then, but even today many organizations still define Internet connectivity simply as a technology to be adopted rather than as a complex management process for social change. In reality, Internet connectivity development is a difficult undertaking. It is expensive, daunting, and yes, it can be unpredictable. 

No matter how smoothly the introduction of the technology might go, there is always the looming possibility that villagers simply won't use the system being introduced. In the past there have been many reasons for lack of adoption, most relating to the villagers’ perceptions of (1) what do they could do with it, (2) the quality of the Internet service perceived to be slow, unpredictable, (3) it may be for their children but not for them, or (4) it will introduce material that perceived to be unacceptable, and (5) did anyone even ask the villagers and the village leadership whether it was okay to bring this technology to the village? It took Jessica Dorr and her team at the Gates Foundation almost 18 months of hard work just to get the Navajo Nation to even accept the grant.

These adoption problems are more prevalent than many people might think. A review of the many organizations that have tried to establish village-level systems show that more than 80% of these efforts are often not sustainable and die.

When Grameen Foundation successfully exited the Village Phone market (a replication of Grameen Phone in Bangladesh in other parts of the world) Concero Connect, L3C, was founded with the goal of bringing broadband Internet to the poorest of the poor anywhere in the world for under $1 per month.

With my experience with the Navajo Nation, plus many other installations in Mexico, Central America, even on the Amazon River, Concero identified a number of common mistakes that many private companies, NGOs, and government agencies make in implementing village-level Internet connectivity systems. In an attempt to deal with these common adoption challenges, Concero Connect has developed an Internet system that is fast, is high quality, secure and predictable, and is funded based upon a low-cost financial transaction model that generates enough revenue to ensure program sustainability.

Especially significant is the comprehensive training program with a set of specific action steps that can help to increase, if not maximize, villager adoption. Let us now review in some depth the common challenges and some examples that have been found to reduce these adoption problems.

Poor Training in the Use and Relevancy of the Internet

One significant cause of low adoption rates in village-level Internet systems is the lack of quality training material used to orient and prepare villagers to use the many services provided. Even more common is a complete lack of awareness that most villagers have as to the many services that are available, the relevancy of these services, the added value of such services in their daily lives, and the impact such services can have in improving the quality of life in the village as a whole. What is often missing in these village-level systems is the availability of carefully trained rural development facilitators (RDFs) who live and work in these communities. (Within the Navajo Nation, these RDF’s were called Web Warriors, and the program was called Technology Based on Tradition). Without such people available to train, answer questions, support, encourage, and demonstrate how best to use the Internet system, wide spread adoption will be slow and often short-circuited. In all villages where Concero Connect works semi-local, professional staff are assigned to a cluster of villages, identifying, recruiting, training, and supporting at least one or two facilitators (one woman and one man) in each village, and more when the demand requires.

Improper Follow Up and Adoption Expansion

Initial visits to these village are usually short in duration, are, at best, able to recruit only a few early adopters, and often ignore those in the village who show little or no interest in the Internet system. Concero Connect’s staff and RDFs are carefully trained to identify every family in the village. As these families are contacted, a “Record of Visit” is prepared, indicating their level of interests, awareness of services available through Internet connectivity, and the families’ concerns and questions. Concero Connect works on the assumption that every family deserves regular follow-up visits (both users and non-users). RDFs are trained to identify young people who can act as “follow-up volunteers”. Often these are High School students in the village who are already using the Internet and are willing to visit families, answering questions and giving help to families already using the Internet, and to show those not using why and how they might receive needed benefits.

Improper Village Leaders Preparation

Until the village leaders (formal and informal key stakeholders and opinion leaders) truly understand how the technology works, believe it will be cost effective and will be relevant to villager needs, wide adoption will always be difficult. Many organizations have failed to consider the many villagers’ perceived disadvantages of the Internet. Many village leaders believe it brings in inappropriate ideas, images, and behaviors that will impact negatively on their own customs and values. Concero Connect seeks to remedy this issue with quality face-to-face discussions with village leaders first and then a set of broader community discussions to explain the services, the information, and especially the financial and economic development advantages of the Internet. Many villagers are not aware of how, for example, pornography, gambling, and terrorist indoctrination, and other negative material can be received or blocked through the Internet. This problem must be faced openly with villagers collectively being given some awareness as to how and why such material might arrive in their village and the various ways that such material can be filtered or at least monitored. Too many rural communities have not been prepared for this challenge and later when such material begins to appear, the village leaders have shut the whole system down denying their community to Internets' many advantages. Concero Connect staff, after many years of experience in less developed countries, have learned that regardless of how one might approach the introduction of a new technology, without the involvement and support of the local leaders, too many times such efforts have failed.

Communities must be involved in the ongoing success of the Internet System

Many organizations seeking to introduce Village-Level Internet systems often assume that once a functioning system is in place, their job is done. This assumption rests on a belief that Internet services are so obviously useful that villagers by themselves can make the system work. Concero Connect believes that any Internet system must be continually monitored, periodically improved with new technology and a demonstrated commitment to find new types of services that villagers might find as useful and important. Without these kinds of commitments the rate of adoption will never grow and may even decline. Even more important is the need of having a constant system of feedback between the villagers and Concero Connect. In each village where Concero Connect operates, the local RDFs will seek to establish a Village Internet Council (VIC) to be made up of formal and informal leaders, (with representatives from the poor and non-poor, youth and elderly, both men and women, users and non-users of the Internet). This VIC will monitor the use of the Internet in their village, what people like and what they don’t like, what should be changed and not changed, and what new services and programs might be added. As this council becomes institutionalized in a given village, the long-term sustainability of the Internet system will be greatly enhanced.

But it’s not about the Internet. It’s what the connectivity can do to help the community do for themselves. In the end, this has to be the real reason why we do what we do.