Kenyan Company Unveils Portable Modem For Connectivity

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Written by Dana Sanchez

From African Business Review.

Ushahidi, a Kenyan software company, has introduced a new, brick-shaped back-up generator it says will provide reliable Internet connectivity in places where staying connected is a constant issue, such as Africa.

The BRCK is a portable, lightweight modem that has been billed as a personal backup generator for the Internet, according to a report in African Business Review.

It works like a mobile phone, switching between Ethernet, Wifi Bridge and 3/4G connection whenever the user’s preferred network is down, the report says. It also uses the same kind of SIM card which measures minutes of talk and megabytes of data for phones with an eight-hour battery enabling BRCK to offer a network anytime and anywhere in reach of cell service.

Erik Hersman, Ushahidi’s Director of Operations said in the report, “We asked ourselves: why is the networking equipment used in Kenya…the same as that used in the U.S.A. and Europe, when the conditions aren’t similar at all?”

So the company designed a device to cope with spotty Internet access. “If it works in Africa it will work anywhere,” Hersman said.

Nathanial Mannin, Ushahidi’s director of business strategy, said, “Change happens at the frontier. The BRCK shows that great ideas can come from anywhere, that innovation comes from solving real problems with constrained sources.”

Ushahidi is a Swahili word for testimony. The company began during a media blackout after the 2008 Kenyan presidential election, launching software for election monitoring via SMS, according to African Business Review. Since then, its software has been used for monitoring crises and elections to fixing potholes.