Interview: Open Source in Energy Access from the EnAccess Foundation 10 May 2022

How to bring WiFi connectivity to very remote areas: Interview with Oscar Aitchison from Okra

00:00 Introductions – Tamara Mahoney & Oscar Aitchison introduce The EnAccess Foundations and the Okra Solar

04:20 What is a mesh grid?

06:30 What does Okra Solar do as a company?

09:11 What is Cicada? What does it do?

12:47 Why was Cicada 2G, 3G and 4G developed?

15:00 Why was open-sourcing Cicada so important?

15:40 Why was Cicada WiFi added to Cicada 2G, 3G and 4G?

17:50 What are the downsides of open-sourcing innovative technology?

19:30 What did the piloting of Cicada in Maybuho, the Philippines look like?

26:00 How can you bring WiFi to zero-connectivity communities?

28:30 What was the impact of Cicada WiFi in Maybuho, Philippines?

32:37 The opportunity to offer WiFi as a service as an extra stream of income

35:04 What are the possible long-term benefits to the community thanks to Cicada?

39:50 What’s next for Cicada WiFi in the future?

42:15 I am interested in prototyping with Cicada WiFi – what are my options?

45:00 What is the role of EnAccess in all this?


Picture a remote island, populated by many small and medium-sized communities. The local economy primarily runs on a fishing industry. Children go to school, and markets sell food & goods, but two important things are missing: reliable energy access and connectivity. There’s no real cell signal in the village of Maybuuho, Philippines. This means that not only do people lack the ability to communicate outside their village, but renewable energy solutions like solar-powered mini-grids or Solar Home Systems also aren’t very easy to use.


Without any sort of connectivity, modern off-grid energy companies that are operating today end up de-prioritising “zero connectivity” locations, which exist all around the world. Okra is a technology company that manufactures everything needed to set up what they call a “mesh grid” as a kit, and then sell those kits to Energy Access companies (like SHS or Mini-Grid companies) around the world. Their latest innovation is called the Cicada WiFi, an open source communications module, that brings WiFi connectivity to remote areas using VSAT technology.


Tamara Mahoney from EnAccess and Oscar Aitchison from Okra talk about Cicadas – not the insects, but the chip – today on Open Energy Access.

They discuss the impact this technology had not only on the company that participated in their pilot but also the potential impact on the village of Maybuuho, that could be offered Internet As A Service for the first time.