This Is How Solar Routers Will Transform African Countries

Posted January 7, 2019 Emmanuel Ogunsola

It is no news that nationwide access to electricity and the internet is still a far cry in most African countries. This problem is felt mostly in rural communities spread across the continent. As a product designer using Nigeria as a case study, I sought to create a product that will mitigate this problem. Focusing on the constraints and the available resources at hand my goal is to provide movies and education to people in rural communities without access to the internet and grid electricity.

After several considerations on different technologies that could be used I settled with using wireless solar-powered routers as a remote storage device for contents. In designing the routers I discovered the need to address each sector as a unique entity. This is because content ownership laws and regulations are not the same for the movie and education sectors in Nigeria.

Providing Nollywood movies through IROKOTV without internet access

Entertainment is a key driver for economies all over the world — 2017 Top Markets Report media and Entertainment Sector. In the light of this, I explored the Nollywood space looking for mobile platforms providing movies to Nigerians using smartphones. One top performer I discovered is IROKOTV that provides Nollywood movies via its mobile apps for streaming and downloads for later viewing.

A key challenge with using IROKOTV is internet access for downloading movies for areas with little or no internet access. IROKOTV currently is tackling this challenge by establishing kiosks all over cities they operate in. Powering these kiosks and staffing them can be redirected into a one-time product that solves the same problem.

Introducing the solar powered router into the IROKOTV ecosystem will help provide users access to download movies when in the vicinity where the routers are located. Malls, restaurants, open markets, bars, highways and residential areas such as estates are possible locations the routers can be situated. Viewing or downloading movies through solar-powered routers will help keep existing users on IROKOTV and gain new customers who can view certain movies for free but with adverts in them.

These routers can be internet enabled if there’s a strong Internet Service Provider in the area the router is located. Also, the routers could be loaded with new content through a root admin. This option will require an IROKOTV staff to visit locations where these routers are located to update them with the latest movies.

Powering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Rural Communities

Through MOOCs, the cost of education has been reduced and made affordable to people all over the world. These MOOCs are initiatives that are helping to create a more open world. But the challenge is that MOOCs aren’t accessible to people in rural communities.

Empowering people in rural communities through massive open courses without internet or grid powered electricity is an ongoing challenge.

e-Tutor is a product concept that solves this problem using solar powered routers with memory cards for storage and a mobile app for the dissemination of open courses to students.

The routers powering the e_Tutor platform uses removable micro SD cards for the storage of educational materials. Simply swapping the micro SD cards provide e-Tutor’s users with more new educational resources. Leveraging on existing courier services on the African continent, one can use them for delivering educational materials in the form of micro SD cards.

Low-cost smartphones and mini projectors can serve as a resource centre in schools all across rural communities. With a single smartphone and a projector, a group of students can learn together in a collaborative manner. Smartphones, speakers and the projectors can be charged using Schneider’s Homaya or similar solar chargers.

Getting students in rural communities educated is very much possible with the available technology. Though full product design, test and development of e-Tutor will require a lot of resources, the overall benefits cannot be overemphasised. This initiative will open up rural communities to world-class education and help create a uniform curriculum for students in African countries.

The wireless solar-powered routers mentioned in this article was made possible through a #10DaysProductDev Challenge. You can read more about it here:

I would love to read your thoughts in the comments section on what you think of the solar-powered routers and their applications.

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