My business partner for many years, Juliana Rotich, gave a great talk at TED last year in which she talked about the unequal distribution of information globally during the communications revolution that we’re currently all a part of. Africa has started to overcome the infrastructure barriers to be a part of this digital revolution with undersea cables, smarter mobile phones, and a wireless ecosystem that is sometimes better than it’s Western counterparts.
There are still challenges however, and Juliana points out the fact that it costs 6x more to call from Kenya to our neighbors in Uganda than it does to call from Kenya to the US or UK.
Today Juliana sent me a link to Thingful.net, made by Umbrellium out of the UK. It’s “a discoverability engine for The Public Internet of Things (IOT), providing a geographical index of where things are, who owns them, and how and why they are used.”
Here we see a very visual example of this “unequal distribution” as there are millions more devices and things sending data around the world from the US and EU than there is in Africa.
This doesn’t need to be this way, and we think that devices like BRCK will help people get more sensors, machines and other devices connected. It’s not just about connectivity, it’s also about power and sensors and devices made hardy enough for the environment in which they reside.
When I saw http://thingful.net (link provided by Bruce Sterling) I could not help but remember that major human intellectual and technological leaps; from classical antiquity, renaissance, scientific revolution, industrial revolution, analytic revolution, digital revolution, and now what others term the next industrial revolution of the Internet of Things; these revolutions have not evenly distributed across continents and nations. It is still the case today.
A quick look at the distribution of the IOT on Thingful.net, and you can see why what we do with BRCK could one day help to fill in the dots of the IOT universe in Africa and other developing countries.
The role of the BRCK and other champions of connectivity in Africa is to change the status quo and extend connectivity to the edges. It is a hard problem to tackle but one that we must tackle, I believe that Africa can be part and parcel of this industrial revolution, in a unique way that helps to bring together data from sensors, instrument complex systems and at the end of the day… engineer for real world problems.