Ina Fried

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Kenya’s Juliana Rotich Shows Off the Small BRCK That Solves a Big Problem

At D: Dive Into Mobile, Ushahidi’s Juliana Rotich talked about a small device that her organization hoped to build in order to bring more reliable communications to the developing world.

Juliana Rotich with BRCK

Now, after a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, Rotich has a prototype ready of the $199 device, known as BRCK. It’s being billed as a “backup generator for the Internet.”

Africa, Rotich said, is quite literally getting better connected to the world, with an increasing amount of fiber-optic connections linking the continent to the rest of the globe. And yet, both power and connectivity within the continent — as well as elsewhere in the developing world — remain unreliable.

Tethering to a cellphone or carrying a portable hotspot is fine in Munich or Chicago, but not really appropriate for Africa and other places.

“You need something more robust,” Rotich said Monday, speaking at the DLDwomen conference in Munich, Germany. The device, shaped like a brick but not quite that large, is designed to provide both backup power and connectivity along with the sensors needed to serve as a weather station as well as room for future expansion.

And, thanks to the Kickstarter campaign, the BRCK is quickly moving from concept to reality.

“By November, we will have that shipping out to various parts of the world,” Rotich said. For her efforts, conference organizers surprised Rotich and honored her with its annual impact award. Preorders are being taken at brck.com.

BRCK closeup

The BRCK effort builds on Ushahidi’s earlier work creating open-source software for crisis response.

From here, Rotich wants to see more devices developed and prototyped in Africa. Rotich noted that the harsh conditions in many parts of the continent can serve as something of a competitive advantage.

“If it works in Africa, it can work anywhere,” Rotich said.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus