The World Wide Web is for all of us. But not yet everyone on this planet enjoys its important benefits: still more than 4.5 billion people do not have access to the Web. The Web alliance for Regreening in Africa (W4RA) is an initiative to help extend the Web benefits of the knowledge society and economy to people in rural communities in Africa.
To do so serious challenges must be addressed, in content, access, and language. At present information on the Web is not relevant for farmers in the Sahel. But, mobile telephony is now in the reach of many poor people. This trend opens up great opportunities. Most African farmers do not have fancy smart phones with internet access. They use simple old fashioned mobile phones, only for chatting. They don't even use their phones for sending or receiving SMS. W4RA will therefore focus on access and interaction with the Web, based on voice.
W4RA envisions a world where all people are empowered by the Web: One Open Web. Everyone, regardless of language, ability, location, gender, age or income will be able to communicate and collaborate, create valued content, and access the information that they need to improve their lives and communities. Thus, the creativity of billions of new Web users will be unleashed. The Web's capabilities will multiply, and play an increasingly vital role in reducing poverty and conflict, improving healthcare and education, spreading good governance, addressing big challenges, local and global. W4RA: Web alliance for Regreening in Africa.
Farmers and rural communities in the Sahel have two main sources of information: mobile telephony and community radio. W4RA integrates local community radio into open and interactive voice-based mobile Web services. The philosophy of W4RA is to develop Open Source software only. That is the best way to ensure that local web developers in Africa will be able to use, reuse and adapt the software to local needs. This will enable new communities of African web developers to start their own businesses and provide innovative voice-based services to local users.