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Taiwan is one of the most networked countries on earth. In urban areas, fast internet access is a given, but in Taiwan’s remote islands and mountainous areas, providing network services is much more difficult. Indigenous communities living in these regions such as the Lalauran and Calavi communities in Taitung and Yayo Village in Lanyu had real problems getting access to wireless internet and the services delivered across it. With fewer job opportunities as well as a lack of access to educational and medical resources, young people tended to leave their home towns to work on the main island of Taiwan, leading to a deepening divide between urban and rural areas. To address these challenges, the communities realised that they needed a radical solution.
The key challenge for these communities is their location and environment. The terrain is rough and varied and the weather highly unpredictable, meaning that providing wireless internet is a tough job at the best of times. The communities across the area are sparsely distributed, and there are plenty of natural features such as mountains and lakes to disrupt wireless signals. Without Wi-Fi or 4G services, locals were cut off from all online and mobile-enabled services and resources.
“People in the Calavi community love their homeland very much,” said Chen Xiuru, staff at Taitung’s Original-Love Woodworking Workshop, “And local people didn’t want huge base stations being installed all over their community. As a result, young people working away from home could only contact their families using a landline phone. Local students also had no access to digital learning platforms.”