The device is a first on the African continent, and it is surprising: installing an LED light device in an Ivorian village on the border with Liberia, an engineer has allowed 5,000 people to have for the first time access to the Internet and television. A project that has changed the life of this isolated village as evidenced by its inhabitants ...

In April 2017, Drongouiné, the last Ivorian village before Liberia, in the west of the country, was equipped with solar panels to provide light to this small town at night. But that's not all: this light also allows them to have access to the Internet and television, without any wired connection or Wifi, thanks to a technology still in the making: the Li-Fi.

Important clarification: the village had access to this device for a few months in 2017. There is more access today, internet access plans have not been renewed.

Thanks to LED bulbs installed in the village of Drongouiné and powered by solar panels, this school now has free internet.

Li-Fi, what is it?

Li-Fi ("Light Fidelity" meaning "transmission by light") uses LED lighting to transmit text, photos or video data to a computer, smartphone or tablet. The difference compared to WiFi is that WiFi radio waves are replaced by the light spectrum: a bit like Morse coding, the light signal can transmit data by turning on and off several thousand times per second an LED light.

To learn more about this device, you can watch the video below published by the company Li-Fi-Led Ivory Coast.

The researchers estimate that the Li-Fi would have a transmission power 100 times higher than Wifi. Technology is already used in some professional circles, particularly in France, but academics are trying to standardize it for individuals by 2020.

In Drongouiné, residents with a smartphone or tablet were able to connect to the Internet or watch television. With a limit however, since the light spectrum can not for example not pass through the walls.

By installing LEDs and using their light spectrum, this broadband device can broadcast TV channels. In Drongouiné, Ange Frédérick Balma, at the origin of the project, was able to make a demonstration at dusk.
"With this free Internet, we want to allow young people who have left their village to come back to participate in its economic development"
The man who allowed the village of Drongouiné to be equipped with this technology is called Ange Frédérick Balma and is 39 years old. He created the Li-Fi Led Ivory Coast start-up in 2014 which now has 12 employees.

We chose Drongouiné, because this village is totally enclave in the west of Ivory Coast. He has suffered greatly from the various conflicts for twenty years [the border region of Liberia suffered the counter-blow of the Liberian civil war between 1999 and 2003, Ed]. There, the mobile network does not pass. The inhabitants have to walk two hours to go to town and charge their phones or connect to 3G.

We funded this Li-Fi kit project on our own funds, it includes solar panels, LEDs, electrical wiring and a Li-Fi receiver. It cost us 5 million CFA francs (about 7,600 euros). To prevent this from being too expensive, we tried to be creative: for example, we made recycled plastic poles by inviting the population to leave us their plastic waste. On these poles, but also in some places of the village like the school, the dispensary, or the house of the youth, LEDs powered by solar panels have been fixed.

This pole for fixing electrical cables was made from 100% recycled plastic. Photo Angel Frederick Balma.

Today, we see the first fruits of these big investments: thanks to this Internet, we have been able to set up remote training courses in the field of agriculture. Ivorian agronomists are videoconferencing on Skype or sending videos on WhatsApp to local farmers to show them how to improve product performance.

Many young people from this village have been pushed to rural exodus. They are currently in Abidjan or in other cities with no real activity, to wait. I want to invite these young people to return to Drongouiné to participate in the economic development of their village, taking advantage of this free technology to develop activities via the Internet. " 


This device has changed the lives of doctors or teachers "

And what is the result of the inhabitants, five months after the implementation of the project? André Ba coordinated the project for the installation of this device. He lives in Danané 10 kilometers from Drongouiné where he often goes.
Le dispositif, qui fonctionne dans un rayon d’environ 300 mètres, a clairement changé le quotidien des habitants : les médecins disposent d’un éclairage permanent grâce aux panneaux solaires, et peuvent réaliser des accouchements de nuit. Mais surtout, ils peuvent maintenant se connecter à Internet en temps réel avec des médecins d’Abidjan s’il y a une urgence. Il en va de même pour les enseignants qui peuvent utiliser Internet comme support pédagogique.

Drongouiné now arouses the curiosity of the inhabitants of the region. Some come from Liberia or Guinea to see this light that gives access to the Internet! In the surrounding villages, there is certainly some jealousy, but we have never had an attempt to steal, because everyone is aware that this can benefit the region.

What are the next steps of the project?

The project, supported by the National Federation of Professional Organizations of Rural Youth of Côte d'Ivoire (FENOPJERCI) does not stop at Drongouiné: funding from the African Development Bank, the US Agency for international development and the Ivorian Ministry of Digital Economy will install about 2,000 similar kits in Ivorian villages, such as Zueloula, in the center of the country, or Dabakala in the North, before the end of 2017.

The initiative reached the ears of the President of the Republic Alassane Ouattara, who received the team of Lifi-Led Côte d'Ivoire Friday, August 4.

The company Lifi-Led Africa has received the 2017 prize for the best Ivorian digital innovation of the Ivorian Republic.

The company Lifi-Led Ivory Coast has received the 2017 Ivorian digital innovation prize of the Ivorian Republic.

With 5,000 kits, we should cover the needs of all 8,000 Ivorian villages, in all regions. We still have to fund 3,000 to achieve our goals! We already have a lot of requests coming from other countries like Madagascar, Guinea, Mali or Burkina Faso ... I hope we can eventually show that with light, we can kill two birds with one stone and bring technology everywhere!

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