Peter Bloom

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico,
Fellow Since 2014

Citation

This profile was prepared when Peter Bloom was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Peter Bloom and Rhizomática are revolutionizing the field of communication technologies in rural Mexico by providing isolated communities with innovative, low cost mobile technology that is accessible to all community members. Rhizomática is armed with innovative open-source technologies developed in the last few years, community mobilizing strategies, and creative litigation that it uses to challenge the status quo. The project and the disruptive technology it employs allow people to make and receive calls and SMS locally for free, and internationally at the lowest available rates, all the while keeping as much of this money circulating within the community as possible.

Rhizomática aims to create opportunities that allow municipal governments and community-based enterprises to become cellular telephone service providers, thereby increasing access and spurring economic growth in places needing both. Peter’s business model is based upon community consensus and is built to ensure that economic benefits from the telecommunication system accrue to the community. Rhizomática aims to help communities manage their own telecommunications infrastructure and service by leveraging the already intact community hierarchy and decision-making structure. The idea behind this business model is to optimize access to mobile communication in a way that empowers communities and makes the most sense in the local context. Communities are involved in the ownership and management of their networks, which promotes local buy-in, ultimately driving down cost. The model is focused on long-term sustainability of the network, and creates a simple business model for communities to follow that will allow them to obtain a small but substantial profit within a maximum of 3 years. Rhizomática works directly with selected community members to ensure they know how to operate, maintain and repair the equipment, as well as how to use the technology for community benefit. As the community itself owns the equipment and profit from the network, it is in community members’ interest to maintain facilities and protect the equipment and generally keep the network online and running smoothly.

Rhizomática is impacting public telecommunications policy and is also highly replicable. Rhizomática´s approach of combining regulatory reform with decentralization is unique. The legal viability of the project is substantiated by the Mexican Constitution and the Federal Telecommunications Law. Nevertheless, as there does not exist any clear framework for small and community telecommunication operators in Mexico yet, Rhizomática advocates for and creates public policy and industry regulation interventions that create a more favorable and clearly delineated legal climate.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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