Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will play a critical role in the advancement of emerging economies by empowering people who live in developing regions though access to information, education and ability to self-organize. Connectivity is a central component in modern-day technology, however, current designs for wide-spread connectivity are extremely infrastructure-intensive. At the same time, emerging markets are often characterized with under-developed infrastructure, which coupled with low-income and sparse populations renders ubiquitous network deployments infeasible. This, in turn, is a major roadblock in access and adoption of technology by residents in developing countries.
This dissertation integrates the field of wireless networks with Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) and focuses on design of resource-aware modular wireless solutions to connect communities in infrastructure-challenged environments. Our research approach has three cornerstones: (i) identification of problems in access and adoption of technology, (ii) design and field implementation of network systems to solve the identified problems, and (iii) development of applications that harness our network infrastructure to improve the day-to-day life of residents in developing countries. Our work advances the field of ICTD by providing better understanding of rural residents' network usage patterns through analysis of large-scale mobile and fixed network traces generated by targeted communities. Furthermore, we design network systems optimized to the unique usage behavior of rural communities to deliver cellular and broadband Internet connectivity in rural areas.
Our work demonstrates that there are multiple opportunities to rethink current designs and bring down the cost for rural network deployments, while accommodating immediate user needs. Our research has shown that rural communities exhibit high locality of communication. In line with this observation, we design resource and demand-aware modular network systems that can provide different tiers of connectivity depending on available resources for global access and user demand. The primary operation of such networks is to enable local communication within a community. Where outbound access is available, these networks can also deliver more global connectivity. Our system designs make use of various wide-range technologies spanning from plain GSM, to Dynamic Spectrum Access harnessing TV white spaces.