By Nina Mulamba
The latest data from Internet World Stats, an international online market research company, suggests fewer than 16% of African users have access to the internet.
The cost of installing the needed infrastructure is quite high, especially if you have to connect every home with copper and fiber-optic cables. However, technology companies and entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative ways to provide fast and affordable broadband access to those with limited infrastructural support.
In order to deal with the problem of connectivity in Africa, Ushahidi (a non-profit tech company) created the BRCK modem, which is a rugged portable device with a battery-life of up to 8 hours between charges and provides connectivity on Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G internet.
BRCK is a rugged, cloud managed, full-featured modem/router with built in fail-overs and programmable GPIO expansion that makes accessing the internet simple and reliable wherever you are.
The BRCK device has been designed with mobility in mind. One can insert a 3G data enabled SIM card in over 140 countries and broadcast a Wi-Fi signal that they can share with up to 20 devices. In the absence of a SIM card, there is the presence of a BRCK vMNO for global connectivity without SIM cards. An external GSM antenna port is included so as to help whenever one is at the edge of the signal range and needs to attach an antenna to reach the distance (BRCK’s internal enterprise-level 802.11 b/g/n router with a 10/100Mbps WAN/LAN port for higher data upload and download speeds).
Manager of networking and telecommunications at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Les Cottrell, writes, “I think in many cases Africa will actually ‘leapfrog’ the need to install hard-wired cables everywhere, and will be able to use different techniques such as the BRCK modem, the low-orbiting satellites or the 3G solutions to get connectivity to where they need.”
The BRCK modem comes with a number of advantages, these include:
The BRCK was designed to work in harsh environments, where the infrastructure isn’t robust. The rugged design of the BRCK allows for drops, dust and weather resistance, and dirty voltage charging. This means you can stay connected when the prevailing circumstances would rather you wouldn’t.
The BRCK modem can handle everything from reverse voltage to surge protection. If the power goes out, it will remain operational for up-to 8 hours in full power mode, and much longer if in a lower power state. The smart-power design means that you can charge the BRCK from a solar panel, car battery, your computer or the wall and not worry about burning it out.
The BRCK cloud allows you to access and manage all of your BRCK devices from one place, anywhere in the world and you can write your own custom software for it through the available API. Sensors and other machines can be connected through its Arduino compatible GPIO port, leaving the possibilities to your imagination. It comes with 4 GB of onboard storage, which you can upgrade.