Kio KitHaving access to education is a fundamental aspect of being able to improve one’s life. Children who grow up in poverty are often deprived of an education and therefore have fewer opportunities as adults, which maintains the cycle of poverty. Education has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to break that cycle. Poor countries have the highest rates of children who are not in school, and according to an estimate from UNESCO, universal secondary education would lead to a 55 percent drop in the number of people living in poverty around the world. In other words, if everyone completed secondary education, more than 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty. Here is the story of the Kio Kit, a way of introducing technology for education in rural Africa.

Education Is A Human Right

The United Nations recognized education as a human right in the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, as of 2015, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that 37.1 percent of upper-secondary-school-aged children globally are not in school. Barriers to education come in many forms: some children begin working at a young age to help provide for their families, in some places girls are not allowed to go to school and many children live in regions undergoing conflicts or crises that prevent them from accessing education. Additionally, a lack of funding can mean untrained teachers, no school buildings and not enough educational materials.

A lack of access to technology is another barrier to education. Modern technology expands the horizons of what an instructor can teach — perhaps she will download ebooks, or show an educational video about biology, or teach students computer skills that are an asset in the workforce. In many regions, particularly in Africa, internet access is limited. For example, in Chad, Niger and Madagascar, less than 10 percent of the population was using the internet in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2014 approximately 15 percent of the world population did not have access to electricity, with electricity being less accessible in urban areas. So how can we adapt educational technology to work in regions where there is limited access to electricity and the internet?

How To Adapt Technology

BRCK, an engineering and design company based in East Africa, has developed a solution. BRCK, founded in 2013, focuses on digital solutions that are specific to African infrastructure. The company was named one of TIME Magazine’s 50 Genius Companies in 2018. BRCK’s Kio Kit project was launched in 2015 and consists of a set of forty tablets and a Wi-Fi router that can connect to web content. Kio Kit tablets charge wirelessly, either by connection to a power source or by solar power, and can run for 8 hours on a charge, meaning they can still be used when electricity is unreliable.

The Kio Kit comes in a weather-proof case and is designed to be usable for untrained teachers. The entire kit, including the tablets, is turned on and off with one button. BRCK calls the Kio Kit a “classroom in a box” and promises to expose rural children to “the same information and learning tools available to kids in any city.” As of 2018, BRCK had sold more than 200 Kio Kits to communities in fourteen countries. BRCK does not list prices online, but a 2015 article from QuartzAfrica reports that one kit costs $5,000, to be paid over twelve months without interest. While this is a hefty price and is not possible for some communities, BRCK’s commitment to getting students online is admirable, and the Kio Kit is a valuable step toward accessible education.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pexels

Technologies For Everyday Tasks in Developing CountriesIn countries with poor economies, there’s often no way for people with low income to get access to essential amenities or conveniences. Whether the lack of electricity, water, or basic information regarding crops and harvest times, problems are widespread and varied. But people continue to find solutions that are simple and affordable when it seems there are no options. Here are some examples of simple, useful technologies for everyday tasks in developing countries and communities.

9 Technologies For Everyday Tasks in Developing Countries

  1. Sproxil provides an online, easy to access verification method for pharmacies and drug sellers. Counterfeit drugs are a big problem in developing countries, with few ways to check for quality. Sproxil works with factories, providing easy to check codes on genuine shipments. A seller can simply verify the code through Sproxil’s app to ensure the quality of delivered drugs.
  2. EthioSIS is an information gathering and mapping system devoted to soil quality. It has mapped out soil quality in several areas in Ethiopia with the intent to provide accurate information to farmers and government officials. This is accomplished using satellite technology.
  3. BRCK is a compact, low cost, durable router. Built by a company operating in Nairobi, there have been several iterations of this technology in order to bring the internet to every corner of the continent. The same company has created Moja, a free wifi platform accessed through a BRCK and the KIO tablet.
  4. An effective solution to a localized problem, UTEC created a billboard that filters and cleans polluted air. Located near its campus in Peru, it stands in an area where air pollution is a constant, extreme problem. The billboard does the work of many trees, many times over, the billboard itself advertises an engineering education.
  5. Of these nine technologies for everyday tasks in developing countries, GravityLight may be the most universally useful. GravityLight is a simple concept for providing light to houses that don’t have electricity. A generator attached to a chain holds weight. The weight winched up on the chain turns the generator as it descends, providing electric power to a small light, usually enough for 20 minutes. Easy to use and re-use, it can be hung from a wall or ceiling anywhere.
  6. The SeabinV5 (version 5) is the brainchild of the Seabin project. This trashcan has a built-in pump, designed to filter out trash from ocean water. The floating SeabinV5 adjusts to oil-absorbing pads and requires easy cleaning.  The electrical cost of maintaining the pump is equivalent to $1 a day.
  7. The Beacon app acts as a search and rescue in local areas. Rescue agencies launch a unique platform, kept up to date about their area of coverage. In areas without a consistent or fast ambulance presence, it can organize and bring together first responders quickly, which is invaluable for smaller communities.
  8. The Hippo Water Roller does not actually take the shape of a hippo. Rather, the water container is cylindrical with a large handle for rolling, either by pushing or pulling. In many smaller communities, getting fresh water often means traveling several miles and carrying it back with a bucket. The Hippo Roller’s ability to transport water easily is invaluable to these communities.
  9. The Bandicoot is a robot designed for sewer cleaning in India. The hazardous waste it is designed to clean and dispose of is very harmful to humans. Also, it takes a human worker two hours to properly clean an area the Bandicoot can cover in forty-five minutes. The robot is so simple to operate and maintain, that those whose job it was previously to clean the sewers can now operate the Bandicoot.

Technologies for everyday tasks in developing countries must be simple, affordable and able to spread easily. These are only a few examples of evolving tech that brings the world closer to ending global poverty. Creative thinking towards a small scale problem can lead to massive changes on a global scale.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Benefits of the Internet in Developing Countries
As of 2019, 56.1 percent of the global population, or about 2.3 billion people, has access to the internet. In recent years the fastest growing market segment has been developing countries, and with the expansion of its popularity, overwhelmingly positive changes have occurred. These top five benefits of the internet in developing countries show how internet access makes a huge dent in global poverty.

Top 5 Benefits of the Internet in Developing Countries

  1. Lifting Individuals out of Poverty: Through internet access, individuals in developing countries are able to gain access to more of the modern economy. With internet connectivity, those living in remote areas can now easily take out microloans, participate in e-banking and more. Today, there are more than 3,098 microfinance organizations that have reached out to more than 211 million clients in developing countries globally. Via such economic tools, those living in extreme poverty are able to improve the quality of their lives. For example, in a case study in India, businesses that received microloans were twice as profitable as those that didn’t. This is because with credit, those without a lot of initial capital now have a discretionary income and no longer have to choose between investing in a business or buying everyday necessities such as medications.
  2. Growing Access to Education: With internet connectivity and new technologies, third-world countries become more able to bridge the education gap between urban and rural populations. In sparsely populated areas, mobile electronic devices such as tablets are being utilized to deliver invaluable classroom instruction to children that otherwise wouldn’t likely receive it. For example, a giant literacy campaign with a budget of $173.5 million is currently being initiated by the Kenyan education ministry. The project utilizes BRCKs: durable, personalized tablets that contain educational content aiming to deliver learning opportunities to those living in even the most remote locations.
  3. Increasing the Ease of Communication: The internet is arguably the most inexpensive and effective connectivity tool. By accessing it, individuals in developing countries can participate in e-conversations through applications such as WhatsApp and WeChat. In a survey conducted in 2017, it was found that about 85 percent of internet users in sub-Saharan Africa used it to stay in touch with family and friends, and around 60 percent utilized it to access social media sites.
  4. Improving Crop Efficiency: Through IoT (internet of things) systems, farmers in developing countries can easily access information about important variables such as humidity, temperature and terrain topography through a variety of sensors. Precision agriculture in third-world countries has also led to the development of unique insurance systems. For example, with Kilimo Salama, farmers in Eastern Africa can now purchase insurance that automatically makes mobile payments to them if their local weather stations record extreme weather occurrences such as drought or flooding. Today, over 150,000 farmers are enrolled in this program.
  5. Greater Global Participation: As of 2017, 53 percent of adult internet users used the internet to stay informed on the news. Because many developing countries also harbor internal conflicts, being up to date on the status quo of things becomes especially crucial for their citizens. In addition, individuals in developing countries can become a part of global conversations via online communication platforms. Social media campaigns have proven themselves to be especially effective at raising awareness for many issues and increasing participation in protests. For instance, many Iranians used Twitter to protest the injustice of the disputed Iranian election of 2009. Through this social media app, the movement was able to go viral with tags such as #IranElection.

Through the increased availability of internet access and clever innovations in third-world countries, the lives of many people have been greatly impacted in overwhelmingly positive ways. With the rise of the popularity of internet kiosks and cafes in rural areas, the hope of universal internet access is no longer far-fetched, and one can only imagine the total impact that internet in developing countries will have on alleviating global poverty.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

BRCKKenyan startup BRCK, which creates the BRCK wifi device, has recently secured $3 million in funding for their product, which could advance Internet connectivity in Africa.

The BRCK wifi device is a solar-powered modem designed to withstand harsh environments and work using limited sources of power and Internet connections. It is also unique in that it can hop between various types of connections including Ethernet, wifi and 3G or 4G.

The device has eight hours of battery life, which is crucial due to Africa’s frequent power outages. BRCK’s slogan is: “If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere,” according to TechCrunch.

“Most of the organizations working to increase access to the Internet in Africa are dealing with it at the infrastructure level, with satellites or undersea cable, with mobile phone towers — and even balloons and drones,” said BRCK CEO Erik Hersman to CNN. “BRCK deals with the last meter of Internet connectivity in the bus stops and kiosks, homes and schools of Africa.”

The African-led company has sold over 2,500 devices in 54 countries since 2013. Most of their sales have been in India. The $3 million the company has secured comes from the TED organization and former AOL executives Jean and Steve Case, CNN reports.

“A lot of this funding is earmarked to grow our footprint, distribution and team around BRCK Education across the continent and globally,” said Hersman to CNN.

The majority of the 410 million school children in Africa do not have access to the Internet, which is something that the startup hopes to solve with its education program. The initiative works to provide remote schools with digital materials. Its ‘Kio Kit’ includes 40 water-resistant tablets, 40 earphones and a plug to provide wireless charging.

Schoolmaster Pastor George Njenga, who uses BRCK Education in his classrooms, told CNN, “This technology is a great help not only for the teachers but also the students, who are really learning a lot.”

With continued innovation, funding and expansion, BRCK has the potential to increase Internet connectivity across Africa and other largely unconnected parts of the world.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: Tech Crunch, CNN, BRCK
Photo: CNN

When it comes to developing products that are durable and useful in the developing world, many of the innovative ideas and products that appear in the media come from NGOs and students from the developed world. Recently however, many local companies and startups in the developing world have begun to take matters into their own hands by addressing the problems their countries face, from traffic congestion to securing a reliable data connection.

One such of these innovative products is BRCK, a power source and a reliable mobile data connection for people who experience frequent power outages in both urban and rural areas around the world. The idea for creating a durable power source emerged from Kenya’s power outages that a group of Nairobi-based engineers were experiencing on a daily basis. Realizing that both urban and rural people needed a more secure power source, as well as a reliable connection to data for mobile devices, the engineers came up with BRCK.

The BRCKs were launched this year on July 17, when the first 700 units were shipped out across Kenya and the world. The initial market for the device was for small and medium businesses, but the sales of the first 700 included people from 45 different countries as well as biotech companies and nonprofits operating in the developing world.

The device has eight hours of battery life in full power mode and five different low power states that help extend that time. It can be charged on anything from a computer to a car battery making it versatile for a wide range of people and conditions. It is marketed as a “rugged” power source that can withstand dust and any formidable weather.

Realizing that there were bound to be questions and concerns with the launch of their product, the team behind BRCK included a forum on their website that allows people from around the world to connect and discuss topics from troubleshooting to technical support to bandwidth quotas.

Devices like the BRCK are important because they not only address the energy needs of the bottom billion, but also foster innovation, development and production in the developing countries. However, one challenge that the team behind BRCK faced was the infrastructure to actually manufacture the device in Kenya, something that many African nations are still developing.

As a result, while the idea originated in Nairobi, Kenya, the manufacturing was done in China and the assembly in Austin, Texas. Working to decrease costs and bring assembly to Kenya will be a work in progress for this young company. Despite the challenges however, the need for the product is great, as anyone who has ever lived or visited a developing country can confirm.

In the mean time, BRCK is addressing a much needed energy supply for people in Kenya, by people in Kenya, a truly remarkable accomplishment.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, BRCK 1, BRCK 2, BRCK 3
Photo: Forbes

In the increasingly mechanized West, it is impossible to imagine daily life without constant connectivity—21st century consumers are defined by their smartphones, computers, and in general, their constant ability to participate in the internet community. With this omnipresence of technology, benefits are innumerable. However, in Africa, where much of the population lives in rural areas, connectivity is sparse.

Technology is inescapable in today’s globalized world: in order to compete, one must be connected. Luckily, the Kenyan nonprofit tech startup Ushahidi has recognized Africa’s dire need for technology. Their latest design, BRCK, seems to be a feasible solution. The device works as a modem that can connect 20 devices simultaneously and allow access to the Internet via WiFi, 3G, 4G, and Ethernet. The device can even function through a battery, providing constant access on a continent too often burdened with power blackouts.

From its origins, BRCK has received widespread support as an innovative product with the potential to revolutionize African technology. The project, which received its funding through Kickstarter, has energized the entire continent. With reliable Internet access, almost every African industry would progress prodigiously.

In her talk at TED, Ushahidi co-founder stressed the importance of BRCK, and by extension, technology, in the development of Africa. She said: “The idea is that the building blocks of the digital economy are connectivity and entrepreneurship. The BRCK is our part to keep Africans connected, and to help them drive the global digital revolution.”

Clearly, with reliable technology, the future of Africa is no longer nebulous. With equal access to information and markets, an auspicious change seems inevitable. With its solid design and brilliant inventors, BRCK appears to be the exact agent of change needed to propel Africa forward.

Furthermore, outside of the continent, BRCK has also received enormous attention. For those constantly on the go, whether for work or recreation, a reliable connection is indispensable. The product is now being sold for around 200 US dollars.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: Yahoo News, TED
Photo: Quartz