Meet the Kio and BRCK
The Kenyan founders of the BRCK-the rugged internet router-have a bold plan to bring connectivity to the almost 800 million people across Africa who lack internet access. With the BRCK fully commercialized, internet access could be a reality for the remotest parts of the continent. The router is being promoted by the Kenyan team of technologists that founded the crowd mapping platform, Ushaidi, in the wake of the country’s post election violence in 2007. The creators of the BRCK have created the rugged device which can run on 8 hours of battery power and has the capabilities to support 4 and 3G internet connectivity and the capacity to support and the capacity to support up to 20 gadgets. Its 8000mAh battery has the ability to charge other devices and the BRCK itself.
Its rough design is meant to withstand rough conditions in places where internet access is a Unlike other innovations that are seeking to provide large scale infrastructural solutions for internet connectivity across the continent, the BRCK is providing a last mile solution which will democratize internet access to small businesses, homes, farmers, schools, and entrepreneurs. The BRCK team launched a kick-starter campaign in 2013 to raise funds for the project. The campaign raised $170,000, exceeding its $120,000 target. By 2016 the team had raised $ 3 million to expand the project. The company has raised funding from a variety of funders including Jean and Steve Case, TED, Synergy Energy, Jim Sorenson, and MKS Alternative Investments. Since its inception in 2013 the c o m p a n y h a s s o l d m o r e t h a n 2 0 0 0 devices ,designed and assembled in Kenya, across the world.
In 2015, the company launched BRCK education with the goal of providing digital content in the remotest areas of the African continent. With the launch of BRCK Education the company has rolled out the Kio Kit which aims to create, what the company CEO, Erik Hersman, calls a ‘digital classroom’ which can be easily assembled by the teacher. The Kio has been designed as digital classroom in a box that is fully integrated with the elements needed to deliver comprehensive and interactive learning. The Kio has been designed with a rugged water resistant casing that can stand use in ragged conditions battery life of up to eight hours.
The Kio tablets are stored in a kit which houses 40 units and also doubles as a wireless charging device for the tablets. An added feature that makes the Kio Kit innovative is the security element. The case is designed to lock securely when closed. But beyond that, the Kio Kit when stolen can not work beyond the wireless settings of the kit. The creators of the Kio Kit have also worked to ensure that the content of the Kio is relevant and engaging and have engaged renowned global and Kenyan digital educational content providers. BRCK Education is partnering with Chase Bank Kenya to support the financing of the kit, which will cost about $4000, to the schools. As the Kio tablet begins to roll out in Kenya and eventually makes its way into the rest of the Africa continent, it looks set to become a game changer in the continent’s digital education space.