News / Africa

New Hope for Better Internet Access in Africa

Ivorian youth checking an electoral commission website in a cyber cafe in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 4, 2012.Ivorian youth checking an electoral commission website in a cyber cafe in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 4, 2012.
x
Ivorian youth checking an electoral commission website in a cyber cafe in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 4, 2012.
Ivorian youth checking an electoral commission website in a cyber cafe in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 4, 2012.
Jill Craig
A non-profit technology company based in Kenya has created a wireless Internet router that it says will help people living in places where electricity is spotty and Internet service is unreliable.

Founded in early 2008, Ushahidi is known primarily for its open-source software applications, but is now launching its first piece of hardware, called the BRCK. One of the BRCK's designers says the "backup generator for the Internet" was created for anyone looking for reliable Internet use and will be particularly useful in Africa and other underdeveloped places.

Jonathan Shuler, Ushahidi’s head of Field Research and Development, was one of the designers. He recalled that he was visiting Juba around the time of the 2011 referendum, which allowed him to incorporate some of South Sudan’s technical and practical needs into the design.

“I was thinking about Juba and my time there a lot while we were designing it. It’s dust-proof, it’s weather-proof, the power supply is really resistant to under and over voltage, which is a huge problem there,” he said.

“You can leave it plugged in and it’s not going to fry the power supply as easily. And when the power does drop, you’ll have at least eight hours of battery life. On top of that, it charges well off of solar, which actually not a lot of high-end electronics do. And then the radios – the Wi-Fi and the cellular radios are really nuanced and have really good reception.”

The wireless router can connect to the Internet via Ethernet, WiFi, 3G and 4G networks, and can switch its source as needed if the connection dies, according to Ushahidi's website. Each BRCK contains 16 GB of storage and can sync and hold data from Dropbox, connected devices or other apps.

Ushahidi is working with Kickstarter, which calls itself the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, in order to raise enough money to start manufacturing. Ushahidi needs to raise $125,000 by June 4.

If it reaches this goal, Ushahidi plans to distribute and sell the first BRCKs before the end of the year, at a cost of roughly $200 per unit.

Dut Acol Dedut, an IT specialist with South Sudan's Ministry of Telecommunications, has read about the BRCK and is optimistic about its potential for South Sudan.

“Yes, yes, it definitely can be beneficial," he said. "Not only the power issue, the other issue about it is about the other ISPs, the way they have designed – their network, they have not been well-designed. Or their coverage is not really that great. So every now and then we have problems with the networks, with the networks going down,” he said.

“So this would be a solution, it would be another option that people might have. So instead of having connectivity to one provider, you can have connectivity to two or three providers," he added.

And the BRCK seems to also have the potential to help solve the issue of charging phones, especially in rural areas.

“It’ll also be able to power things externally,” Shuler said. “It’ll have USB out[let]s, so you can connect your hard drive to it, you could charge your phone off it, and we also have GTIO pins, which are basically like the connection at the bottom of your iPhone, lots of tiny little pins, and those will be able to power external hardware.”

The Internet continues to rapidly gain more users in Africa. From 2008 to 2012, Internet bandwidth available to the continent’s one billion people grew twenty-fold, according to a 2012 World Bank report.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs