The time has come and we can finally share our exciting news with you.
In partnership, Left and the University of Guelph will start working on a mobile mesh network project that has been chosen as a recipient of CIRA’s Community Investment Program grant!
171 projects applied for funding and we are lucky to be one of only 21 recipients of the million dollar CIRA program fund. The Community Investment Program funds Canadian community projects that will build a stronger, safer, and more accessible Internet for all Canadians. Of course, if you have been following Left along our seven year journey, you know our mission is to make something of real and lasting value that will impact our community. This is definitely one of those opportunities!
In 2015, it became part of Canada’s mandate, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” with Indigenous communities in Canada [TRC of Canada: Calls to Action, 2015]. Many indigenous communities throughout the vast expanse of Canada still suffer from a lack of resources that are considered by the UN to be basic human rights, including Internet connectivity. Left and the University of Guelph are working to address this inequality with our pilot project to bring mobile mesh technology to the indigenous community of Rigolet in Nunatsiavut, Labrador.
Left has been quietly working hard on our mesh network platform, and now, working with Guelph Professor Dan Gillis, the community of Rigolet, and CIRA, we are ready to begin bringing this game changing technology to the world.  The funding for this project supports the team to research the primary needs of the 300 Inuit in this community and develop meaningful solutions for those needs on top of our mesh platform. Devoted individuals at Guelph and Left are working together to create mesh-enabled mobile applications to immensely improve the state of the community’s prioritized needs; including the possibility of developing a health and environment monitoring system to address climate change impacts within the community.  By bringing this new technology to Rigolet their ability to connect is enhanced which, in turn, empowers the community to improve their abilities to self-govern (a primary recommendation of the TRC).
For those not familiar with our mesh network: it uses various networks present in smart-phones today, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct to enable smart devices to connect to each other without relying on access to the Internet. If one person has an Internet connection, or resources from the Internet available on their phone, they can share and spread that connectivity thereby creating a ‘mesh’ of connected devices. The tech giants of the world are trying to blanket communities with connectivity via expensive infrastructure (e.g., drones and balloons) but we are empowering individuals.  When not everyone needs to be connected to the Internet they can instead connect amongst each other and limit both inefficient energy consumption and the need for expensive, impractical devices.
Our goals for this world-changing initiative include creating innovative solutions to directly benefit the specific needs of the Rigolet community. Community-led initiatives allow everyone involved to share their knowledge and expertise to create a technologically advanced community with increased capabilities and opportunities; all the while, staying true to their culture, traditions, and heritage. Increasing our knowledge of the community’s needs ensures successful completion of this project and the ability to shape the future together. This pilot project creates a foundation to bring to other remote communities to continuously increase the capabilities of the mesh network to meet the individualized needs of various communities.
Follow us along this journey so that you, too, can learn about the experience!