Researcher : Dr. Arjuna Sathiaseelan, Cambridge Computer Lab
Mentor : Dr. Jessica Ocampos, Camnexus

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to digital modes of communication strengthens social safety nets, improves social and economic efficiencies and creates new opportunities. Yet three billion people across the world do not have access to digital communication service infrastructure.

In recent years a number of community-led initiatives have emerged to address this gap by pooling resources to set up their own community network access infrastructures. Some community networks have evolved to deploy their own decentralized community cloud infrastructures. These are akin to traditional data centres in the cloud but are run on resources shared and governed entirely by community members as opposed to corporate service providers.

Dr. Sathiaseelan and his team at the Networking for Development (N4D) lab in the Computer Laboratory have been researching novel ways of architecting decentralized community cloud infrastructures. A major challenge still to be addressed is to understand the economic drivers that can enable wider adoption of decentralized community cloud infrastructures. Previous community network deployments found that while users are interested in accessing global services such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and WhatsApp, there is relative lack of demand for the localized services that were expected to stimulate wide-enough take-up to ensure the sustainability of such infrastructures.

The Development i-Team will investigate whether or not decentralised, locally owned and run community cloud infrastructures are needed and/or desired in the developing world.

If they are, the Team will: develop an understanding of the demand drivers for the successful and sustainable take up of such digital infrastructures; identify the specific demographics and other characteristics of developing communities in which cloud infrastructures are likely to enjoy successful take up; and propose sustainable economic models for such community-led initiatives, which may entail the establishment of effective infrastructure sharing relationships with major cloud providers.