As technology advances many communities are still left out of the global village which is why there is a need for tailor-made solutions to help bridge the gap. Africa’s first low-power Android desktop computer aims to change this and help communities who have limited, or no access to electricity – Zimkhitha Sulelo
Inspired to build a computer
Megan Verkuil, founder of Capsule Technologies, a Cape Town-based technology firm who built this innovative technology explains to Appsafrica.com how it all began. Verkuil returned to South Africa from France with an idea and registered her company with her husband which is now only six months old. With a background in IT and education she was inspired to build a computer that would not only run on low power but also give users access to customised offline content.
World Design Capital exhibition
The IMPI Mkl desktop computer has also been recognised as a World Design Project by the city of Cape Town which is hosting this year’s World Design Capital exhibition. Verkuil said the device is energy efficient and consumes only 20 watts of electricity. A normal desktop can use up to 600 watts of electricity. The IMPI Mkl can also be powered with a solar panel in the absence of electricity infrastructure and comes with a 6 year warranty. It also comes with custom made offline content to service mainly the Health and Education sectors across Africa.
Technology can easily intimidate
“If you look at the computer it was not built to be pretty. It’s an industrial computer made with reusable industrial components that are durable and can survive Africa’s high temperatures. We did a lot of research before the launch and working with NGO’s we realised that many kids who do not have access to technology are easily intimidated by it. With that in mind we decided to build something that they can touch without fear of breaking it or damaging it” she explains.
Revolutionise African hospitals
There are also opportunities to revolutionise the way the African hospitals record patient’s data and improve access to information. Knowing that there is high computer illiteracy throughout the Africa region, the computer is user-friendly. “Most people have access to Android powered smart phones so we had to make sure that using the computer was as easy as downloading an app on a smartphone” she said.
Information and Communications Technology in Western Cape Province contributes about R3-billion to the GDP but funding for start-ups remains a challenge. “Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of funding out there and without established relationships and a track record of what you have done before it is hard to get businesses to buy into your idea”.
Her project is self-funded and her biggest challenge since the launch has been learning to balance the media interest and focusing on the business side of selling the product. “By the end of the year we are looking forward to working with the best local minds fresh from University. We are also looking forward to creating low level jobs to enable local skills and boost our manufacturing industry” she said.