combat poor internet connectivity in Africa, founders of Ushahidi, David Kobia, Juliana Rotich and Erik Hersman are set to launch a modem, BRCK, that provides internet connection even without electricity.

BRCK, is a product designed by Africans, for Africans to work best in areas of the continent where internet connectivity is unpredictable. It can work even in remote areas where there are fairly unreliable internet connections.

Head at MIT Center for Civic Media Ethan Zuckerman described it as, “the equivalent of a backup generator for the net.”

BRCK connects two mains and has a battery that could work for 8 hours without power. It works much like a cell phone by gaining its connectivity through a standard SIM card and/or Ethernet or WiFi connections while intelligently and seamlessly switching between Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and 3G or 4G connections. It is extremely small, and designed to be the easiest possible networking device to set up. Once operating, it can connect up to 20 devices with a WiFi signal that can cover several rooms.

The BRCK connects to the BRCK Cloud and has 16GB of memory on board that can be synced to Dropbox and other connected devices and applications.

Techies believe it is not only Africans that stands to benefit from this project as the device is also useful in developed nations where internet connections are spotty and in the case of extreme storms and other disruptions.

The idea to create BRCK was born out of the problem encountered in Ushahidi (“Ushahidi” means “testimony” in Swahili), a non-profit technology company created in Africa in 2008 in response to the post-election violence in Kenya.

With the use of Ushahidi, citizens can report incidence of violence and use this information to build maps illustrating where troubled spots are. Ushahidi builds open source software and digital tools to help people in the developing world use information more effectively.

“As a company full of engineers working in places with poor infrastructure, we simply cannot get connected as reliably as our peers in the developed world,” the company says.

“At Ushahidi, we face this problem all the time. We realised that what we really needed was a smart, rugged device that could connect to the internet any way it could, hop from one network to another, create a hotspot for multiple devices, while plugged in or running on battery power.”

However, when the founders devised that failure in internet connection could mar the purpose of the project Ushahidi; they launched a “KickStater” to fund it. The project started with the help of $172,107 raised on crowdfunding site for the Kickstarter.

The product is in its production stage but should be released by November. It will be made available for pre-orders through Kickstarter for $215 (including postage) and the first 50 early-birds can get one for $150.


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