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New connectivity initiatives planned for rural Africa

Africa , 02 Dec 2015

New connectivity initiatives planned for rural Africa

Danish technology firm BlueTown plans to roll out community WiFi towers in rural areas throughout Africa to widen access to the internet.

The low cost WiFi towers provide coverage over a 1km radius and each tower is fitted with several mobile phone charging pots to address the ongoing power supply challenge in many parts of the continent.

The tower runs off solar power and its batteries can last up to 30 hours.

"We have been doing installations in Tanzania and India over the last one year and a half," Jens Raarup, the company's CTO told ITWeb Africa. "We have gained a lot of experience on operating in small villages without power supply and we understand the environment and the customers."

Raarup says the best thing about WiFi is that it does not require SIM cards to be able to access the internet.

The masts are connected to a local cloud solution that will store useful data on various topics. Users can access this data without the need to be connected online.

"We have developed a user friendly mobile application that will integrate with the service," Raarup said. "The app will help users access data in the local cloud."

BlueTown's strategy is to mount the masts and provide access to the Net at what the company describes as a 'small fee'. This fee covers the installation and is expected to help empower communities to establish a revenue stream and maintain the system.

The company acknowledges that regulation is one of the challenges they face in setting up the system in Africa.

"When we run commercial installations we need to comply with all the necessary regulations. They are not equal in Africa. In some countries you need a license to operate in others you can be unlicensed," Raarup commented.

"Some countries have regulations on the coverage and it would affect the range of the WiFi," he explained. "We have spent a lot of effort in researching laws, regulation and red tape before we go live."

The company hopes to go launch the service by the end of Q1 2016.

Outernet, developed in the US by Syed Karim, is another technology that aims to provide access to information to those who do not have sufficient internet connectivity.

Outernet is a satellite project that uses small receivers to link users with data without the need for connectivity. Users simply engage WiFi and can immediately access information.

Outernet already has coverage over Sub-Saharan Africa.

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