Kenyan firm Ushahidi has designed an innovative internet modem, BRCK, specifically for Africa, in a bid to speed up broadband internet connectivity on the continent.

The product was displayed at a TED Global conference in Edinburgh, Scotland by Ushahidi Director Juliana Rotich, who said she hoped the new internet modem will lead to a hardware revolution in Africa. The modem has been designed to connect up to 20 devices at a time and seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and Ethernet connections automatically, depending on what signals are available.

The modem aims to keep Africans connected even when the power turns off and the internet connection is lost. The new modem hopes to solve one key problem that hinders African business-electricity shortages. BRCK will also offer consumers content that will show data about signal, usage and performance, as well as management of the internet network.

The rugged design of the modem means it was made to suit African conditions. “While Africa may have joined the digital revolution and mobile is becoming ubiquitous, internet connectivity is not always reliable and the price of connecting is high,” she told technology journalist Jane Wakefield after the event. “We get online and then there is a power cut and we are plunged into darkness and the internet connection goes down.”

The modem also allows users to plug in a SIM card to offer a network anywhere in reach of a mobile tower. The BRCK has an eight-hour battery to overcome electricity power interruptions. It is also packed with cloud-based software which means it can be accessed from anywhere to see how Wi-Fi and electricity are connections are. For remote villages where even a mobile signal is hard to find, there is also an antenna to boost signal strength as a way of stimulating rural entrepreneurship and education. Ushahidi’s motto is “If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere”, and Rotich hopes this new product will lead to a hardware revolution on the continent. “It is currently extremely difficult to do hardware in Africa,” she said. Ushahidi is hoping to set up a Kenyan-based ‘Makerspace’ (developer’s hub) to allow more hardware to be developed specifically for the African market. BRCK will start selling on the market from November but it is available for pre-order for $199 from next

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