Startup in Kenya launches device to solve Africa’s internet equation

Kenyan communications hardware company BRCK unveiled its SupaBRCK this week — a waterproof, solar-powered Wi-Fi box that operates as a 3G hotspot and off-grid server.

SupaBRCK is the sequel to BRCK’s eponymous debut product, launched in 2013 to tackle two common African IT challenges: reliable power and viable internet options.

Internet statistics Africa

BRCK version 1 delivered connectivity and USB charging for up to 20 devices. The new SupaBRCK — with its dual core processor and a 5 terabyte hard drive — can be plopped down in just about any environment to provide up to 100 internet connections, streaming video for 50 devices and enough server capacity to run a Linux stack.

Improving internet availability and affordability in Africa had become central to the continent’s burgeoning IT ecosystem. Pan-African e-commerce startups like Jumia need it to create a customer base. For global tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix — all of which increased their presence in Africa in 2016 — viable net access underpins growth possibilities on the continent.

The Kenyan startup is backed by $4.2 million from investors, including Steve Case and TED. BRCK moved into education in 2016 with its KIO classroom tablets. It also will offer a new PicoBRCK — an ultra-rugged device designed for Internet of Things applications — later this year. Retail sales for the $700 SupaBRCK begin this summer. The mini-server and Moja network are being deployed in Kenya and Rwanda this month.

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