No Internet, no electricity? No problem. BluPoint makes access to digital content possible in unconnected parts of the world
During a research project at the University of Southampton in the UK, Professor Mike Santer was researching the use of mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa. His research led him to wonder how the power of the Internet can be brought to the 3 billion unconnected people in the world? Eventually, his enquiry led him to co-found BluPoint Ltd., a startup with a mission to develop Internet solutions for places where connectivity is either intermittent, non-existent, or cost-prohibitive.
From the students he surveyed, Mike learned that the mobile phone was becoming critically important to their studies. Books were in short supply, schools were located extremely far from students’ homes, but their phones allowed them to complete their homework and continue their studies outside of the classroom. The challenge was clear – in an area of the world with low connectivity and oftentimes access to only basic devices, how could he help these students gain access to a new depth of information and possibility with connection to digital information and services?
Behind the scenes of BluPoint
The BluPoint Platform consists of BluHubs, which are resilient, low-energy servers, working in tandem with BluCloud services, which include a content management system, content conversion software, an analytics dashboard, and system management tools that run on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“Right away, we wanted to use the power of the cloud. Having a global market in sight, we were looking for a solution that would scale with us. Our assessment was that AWS is the best solution for us in terms of scalability and performance,” said Dr. Martin Hall-May, Technical Lead, BluPoint.
The solution comprises a combination of local hubs supported by sophisticated software to manage content and the operation of the BluHubs. The software also automatically turns web content in branded multimedia that can be accessed on all devices, even by people that struggle with literacy.
The portable solar-powered servers provide local pop-up intranets and are capable of streaming text, graphics, video, and radio content to a wide range of ICT and mobile devices. The BluHub uniquely delivers curated content, on-demand, via Bluetooth, FM Radio, and Wi-Fi to all mobile devices, without the barrier of data charges to the end user. By providing content to all mobile devices, whether they are smart, feature, or basic, BluPoint is positioned to reach over three times more people than a solely Wi-Fi solution.
The BluPoint difference
What difference does this technology make in the school? The biggest difference is the change in the chalk-and-talk paradigm of classrooms.
If students miss a day of school, traditionally they would miss out on that day’s lesson. Compounding the problem, the nearest library is a day’s walk away for many students. The biggest impact of BluPoint is a fundamental shift of how students in areas of low connectivity access education. With the power of BluPoint, learning can be completely adaptive. Students can now explore at their own pace, on their own device, with access to a wide range of content that was previously inaccessible to them – even in areas of low Internet connectivity.
BluPoint has global aspirations, and to date has deployed in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and India, connecting communities to education, healthcare, and humanitarian aid. They are now also addressing commercial applications of the BluPoint platform in extending the reach and impact of digital to devices in regions that are otherwise excluded.