Carnegie Mellon University

Digital Africa

August 16, 2023

Communication and Compute For All

By Hope Reveche

Krista Burns

A team of CMU researchers led by Swarun Kumar and Akshitha Sriraman received the College of Engineering Moonshot Award for their interdisciplinary initiative between CMU-Pittsburgh and CMU-Africa. The goal of this collaboration is to provide Internet connection to underprivileged communities around the world, allowing affordable communication and computer infrastructure to be accessible to all. As a globally recognized institution in technology and innovation, CMU is perfectly positioned to host the Communication and Compute for All initiative. Its proximity to both low-income communities and rural areas is essential to introducing those who have never used the Internet to the digital world.

ECE’s Vyas Sekar, Giulia Fanti, Theo Benson, Brandon Lucia, Yuvraj Agarwal, Zac Machester, and Assane Gueye along with other researchers from CMU-Africa, EPP, CEE, MechE, and INI combine ideas from multiple disciplines to form a comprehensive solution. The project is divided into two components that address the current communication and compute issues. To achieve an affordable, modular global communication network, the team will utilize low-cost nano-satellites paired with small, software-defined base stations. Additionally, they plan to implement a modular computing paradigm that will allow a range of computing sources such as computers in a school or non-smart phones to connect with each other.

Another component of this project is advocating for policy frameworks for universal connection. By recognizing social limitations to technology like literacy or economic status, the initiative can create programs to address the needs of underserved communities.

Moonshot projects encourage CMU Engineering faculty to engage in ambitious long-term endeavors for the betterment of all, including those new to the technology realm. Proposed projects address a range of issues and show the commitment of the CMU community to improvement and innovation.