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Bridging the Digital Divide using Mobile ad hoc Mesh Networks in the Circumpolar North

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About WSRC 2019

The Western Student Research Conference (WSRC) is Western University's annual multidisciplinary undergraduate research conference. It invited students from across Ontario to present their research from all academic backgrounds in oral presentation and poster formats.

Territorial Acknowledgement

It is important to acknowledge that the University of Guelph resides in the ancestral and treaty lands of the Attawandaron people and the Mississaugas of the Credit.

Finally, this work would not be possible without the contributions and guidance of the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, in their ancestral and continued homelands.


Many communities in the Circumpolar North lack the Communication Infrastructure (CI) required for efficient and effective dissemination of information. Particularly, these communities have severely limited network bandwidth and cellular connectivity.

This is particularly evident in the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut where the limited CI is a significant impediment to the collection and dissemination of important environmental data. To solve this problem, we are exploring the use of an alternative to fixed CI: Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANET). A MANET is a type of network that uses mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets to form direct connections between the devices using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi direct and traditional Wi-Fi hot-spots, instead of relaying through Internet Service Provider CI and cellular towers. Devices which are not within immediate vicinity may still communicate over distances as network peers forward data transfers to the correct destination. The most significant impact of this technology is that it allows users to connect to each other when and where a connection is needed. Deployment of MANETs can be done with minimal planning, using common, inexpensive mobile hand-held devices, offering an economically viable alternative to building new expensive infrastructure which is required to support traditional wired networks.

In this presentation we provide an overview of the implications of the digital divide in Canada, and describe our work with MANETs to help close the gap.


This talk was presented with and on behalf of Nic Durish, Daniel Gillis, Frazer Seymour, Keefer Rourke, Marshall Asch, Sachin Raturi, Ben Hughes, Charlie Flowers, Inez Shiwak, Michele Wood, Jason Ernst & The Rigolet Inuit Community Government

Illustrative protocol graphics courtesy of RightMesh AG and Left Inc.

This project would not be possible without our active community and funding partners: Nunatsiavut Government, Rigolet Inuit Community Government, University of Guelph, Memorial University Labrador Institute, CIRA, CIHR, RightMesh AG, Health Canada, Polar Knowledge Canada, and NSERC.