Steve Song is founder of VillageTelco, based in South Africa and he is one of the makers at Makers Faire 2010.

A village telco is a community telephone network. It is based on a suite of open source applications that enable entrepreneurs to set up and operate a telephone service in a specific area or supporting the needs of a specific community [1].  The first village telco has been established by Dabba at Orange Farm, a township near Johannesburg, South Africa. Users can make free local calls to other Dabba subscribers, as well as use pay-as-you-go vouchers to make calls to ‘phones on other networks [2].

Technically, a village telco consists of:

  • a mesh network made up of Wi-Fi mini-routers combined with an analogue telephone adaptor (aka ‘Mesh Potato’)
  • SIP phones
  • a pay-as-you-go billing and management system
  • a SIP/VOIP server
  • least cost routing equipment

Together, the components comprise an easy-to-use, standards-based, wireless, local, do-it-yourself, telephone company toolkit. The goal of a village telco is to make local telephony in developing countries inexpensive enough that it is virtually free. This has become possible, thanks to advances in open source telephony software and the dramatic decrease in the cost of wireless broadband technology.

At Maker Faire Africa 2010 Joy Tang and I interviewed Norbert Okec from Uganda on his prototype of a street light system.


MFA 2010

Maker Faire Africa 2010 has already started. Despite the morning chill, things are looking up.




Briefing on house keeping issues.


Sites have been set up and more are being done.


Maker Faire Africa 2009 maker, Pat Delany, of the MultiMachine fame presents
“A full-scale machine shop” built along similar principles:

4 simple, cheap tools for Africa

In a small self-built workshop at the edge of Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, a group of craftspeople, designers and artists create jewelry out of old butcher bones.  Employing 23 members full-time, Victorious trains and employs at-risk youth in bonecraft.  We are excited to have them joining us at Maker Faire Africa 2010.

Random Specific’s Meena Kadri writes:

Cyrus Kabiru

Next week ushers in this year’s Maker Faire Africa which celebrates the spirit of African ingenuity, innovation and invention. I recently interviewed one of its founder’s Emeka Okafor for Design Observer: Tinkers, Hackers, Farmer, Crafters. He spoke with conviction of

“the interchange between the emerging global dynamics and local inspiration in Africa. This speaks to a far-reaching conversation in which the questions are posed: How do we regain our creativity? How do we redefine what we mean by a society that is advanced?