BRCK: Ushahidi’s Kickstarter project designed to fix Africa’s internet issues

BRCK Kickstarter

BRCK Kickstarter

Leave it to the Kenyans to figure out a way to connect to the internet no matter where you are and without electricity. Currently attempting to raise a whooping US$125 000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, BRCK is an Ushahidi initiative that hopes to solve internet connectivity issues in remote areas.

The device is “the easiest, most reliable way to connect to the internet, anywhere in the world, even when you don’t have electricity,” says open source information and mapping company Ushahidi. According to the team, the gadget, which could be described as mobile router, works as a backup generator for the internet.

The idea seems to have come out of the problems faced by Kenyan-based Ushahidi and the unreliable internet connection in remote locations. “We realized that what we really needed was a smart, rugged device that could connect to the internet any way it could, hop from one network to another, create a hotspot for multiple devices, while plugged in or running on battery power,” says the organisation.

How it works

According to the team behind the device it is versatile and works in the same way a mobile device does. It is supposedly able to connect to the internet intelligently and seamlessly, hopping between Ethernet, Wifi, and any available 3G or 4G mobile phone network.

The team seems to have made power redundant. Though the device draws power through an AC power source, if that fails, the BRCK can last for 8 hours on battery life and transitions seamlessly.

“It works when the electricity goes out and it works when the internet goes down. It is portable and easy to set up. It supports up to 20 devices, with WiFi powerful enough to cover multiple rooms.”

The device works on a software basis and operates in the cloud with its own website, which according to creators is “accessible from anywhere to check how WiFi and electricity are performing, or manage alerts and applications”.

Users can also manage alerts and applications remotely using their mobile phones or computers, as well as gather data reported from attached sensors or computers.

The device looks pretty cool and it seems it can solve some of the pesky connectivity issues on the continent, providing people with reliable internet access no matter where they are. The team seem to feel that this solution isn’t just for Africa though, saying that “if it works in Africa, it will work anywhere”.

Some straight facts about the project:

According to Ushahidi the money raised would be enough to start manufacturing the basic BRCK, but the team says it would need more money to add extra features to the product:

  • We will release the BRCK in three different lid colors, red, blue, yellow. Purchasers of all BRCKs will be able to choose their colour! (US$250,000)
  • Earlier release of scripting “SDK” documentation. An SDK is the documentation and example code for interfacing with the BRCK from your own software applications. (US$300,000)
  • GPIO Port Breakout/Dev Board for all BRCKs. GPIO break out lets you easily connect external hardware projects to the BRCK. (US$400,000)
  • Pre-installed cloud-service apps such as VPN and Dropbox on all $300+ reward packages (US$500,000)
  • All BRCKS get a smart AC power supply (US$600,000)
  • Raspberry Pi integration model option for all US$300+ reward packages. We will build out a version of the BRCK that fits the Pi, with a style and design that brings the two together. When connected to the BRCK with 16Gb of storage space, this gives you a highly portable mini-server that’s always connected. (US$750,000)

The project has raised more than US$34 000 from 245 backers in a day, with 28 days left to reach its target.



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