Handmade Cellular Networks

In January 2015, WIRED published a story about a rural town in Mexico whose residents are constructing their own cellular network with support from the non-profit Rhizomatica. San Juan Yaee in Oaxaca has largely been ignored by the Mexican telecom industry without any kind of cell service. And they’re not alone – according to stats supplied by the GSM Association to WIRED, 1.6 billion people in rural parts of developing countries don’t have access to mobile networks.

That’s a staggering number of people.

But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. With a small influx of cash and the blessing of the Mexican government, reliable cellular service will no longer be a fantasy to the 500 residents of Sun Juan Yaee. A working phone opens up doors to so much more than simply phoning a family member – it delivers opportunities for education, banking, commerce, health care, entertainment and so on. Things many of us take for granted.  

Contemplatives in Action, a key value of Jesuit education, reminds us that we need to take action to address social issues. Being thoughtful and philosophical is only half the battle – just because problems have been ignored or underserved by business or government, like in San Juan Yaee, doesn’t mean they’ll simply go away.   

In a business sense, San Juan Yaee was lacking competition. Mexican telecom companies were ignoring the area since it was too costly to offer service and turn a profit. And residents were left out, with no options. Competition in business affects our lives and, generally, helps improve them. Or at least provides choice. Sick of the same old pizza place? You’ve probably got a dozen other options close-by. If AT&T’s service in your area is poor, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile are other likely alternatives.

At Regis University, our Jesuit Catholic values challenge students to think beyond corporate profits to perform both ethically and effectively. The path from an entry-level job to the boardroom is paved with moral decisions that will affect people’s lives. Classes at Regis, like Marketing Principles and Project Management, help students learn how to think critically and make ethical decisions that not only affect their lives, but the world around them.

Have you moved beyond philosophical thinking and into real action in your own life? What issues do you have the ability to impact in your world? Put yourself in a position where you can strive for excellence and answer the question, “How ought we to live?”