This little black box could change the internet in Africa– here’s why you should care

(CNN)Kenyan start-up BRCK has secured $3 million in funding for an invention that hopes to change the face of internet connectivity across Africa.

Founded in 2013, the tech innovators are the brains behind a tough-as-nails modem designed for harsh environments with limited connection and power.

What makes the BRCK noteworthy is that it can hop between Ethernet, Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G networks, and it has eight hours of battery to keep going during blackouts.

    It may be small, but BRCK CEO Erik Hersman says the device packs a punch like no other, with the potential to help millions facing the daily frustrations of power cuts and unreliable and patchy internet.

    “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,” Hersman told CNN.

    Where BRCK fills the gap is in the the last meter of internet connectivity “in the bus stops and kiosks, homes and schools of Africa.” With BRCK, Hersman claims “there will be millions online in schools, in businesses and even retail consumers.”

    Powering a digital revolution in schools

    There are 410 million school children in Africa, according to the African Development Bank. The vast majority have little access to the internet.

    Last year, BRCK rolled out BRCK Education, an initiative built to help solve the problem of providing remote schools with digital material.

    “There are certain industries that badly needed what we had built, such as education institutions,” said Hersman.

    BRCK’s “Kio Kit” is a customized drop and water-resistant tablet for children within a rugged case. “It allows any teacher to create a digital classroom in just a few minutes,” explained Hersman.

    On the outskirts of Nairobi is Lighthouse Grace Academy, the first school to test out BRCK’s Kio Kit, using it in four different classes. Schoolmaster Pastor George Njenga says the invention has so far worked wonders.

    “This technology is a great help not only for the teachers but also the students, who are really learning a lot. In fact, sometimes I think they learn more with this kit than with the teacher,” he said.

    “I would recommend any school, anywhere in the world, to use it,” added the schoolmaster.

    African technology going global

    BRCK is proving that African-led solutions can lead the way for tech innovation not just locally, but globally too — and it seems investors agree.

    Since 2013, BRCK has sold over 2,500 devices in 54 countries. With $3 million in pocket from supporters including former AOL executives Jean and Steve Case and TED, the company looks set for continued growth in 2016.

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

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/africa/kenya-tech-startup-internet-innovation/index.html