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Life changing access to information – Southampton spinout reaches rural Zambia

Life changing access to information – Southampton spinout reaches rural Zambia

Ambitious technology spinout company BluPoint is delivering information and services to offline and off-grid remote communities around the globe as it pursues its mission to improve the lives of 20 million people in 20,000 communities by 2020.

Effective communication in these challenging locations can enrich education, healthcare and commercial applications, and the University of Southampton Science Park business is now demonstrating a solar-powered, pop up intranet solution that is transforming these environments.

BluPoint taps into the potential of devices that people in these communities already own to provide access to digital content even where there is no reliable electricity supply or network connectivity. The spinout’s technology delivers cached, curated digital content to all mobile devices at high speeds and with zero cost to the end user.

The platform combines cloud software with on the ground hubs which enable content to be edited and added to curated artefacts. The system then optimises and adapts the content to make it accessible to all devices. For example, it automatically creates an audio file of textual content for FM broadcast and automatically creates a video which can be broadcast via Bluetooth to low end devices.

Content is then synchronised onto ground based low energy/solar powered hubs, which provide the information and services via Wi- Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio.

“BluPoint’s ‘smart intranet’ technology could transform the delivery of services in support of education, health, small-scale farming and e-commerce, as well as the delivery of media content.”

Ian Braid, Connect Africa

BluPoint has been working this summer with the iAfrica Foundation and Connect Africa, two organisations that are using new technologies, connectivity and the know-how of local entrepreneurs to transform the lives of people in rural and remote communities.

As most people living in rural African communities do not have access to a smartphone, tablet or computer, this six-month project to pilot BluPoint is exploring an offline content solution.

The Zambian pilot is running in Mwandi Village, a three-hour, 120km drive from Livingstone, on the banks of the Zambezi River, close to Namibia and Botswana. It is home to the Lozi people who have their own language and are mostly subsistence farmers, growing or fishing just enough to survive on.

The pilot project is investigating BluPoint’s ability to deliver content to various types of devices including feature phones and basic phones with FM radio. Its periodically updated content covers agriculture, education, healthcare, sports, news and religious material.

BluPoint key benefits

  • Fast and free for users
  • Content to any device
  • Secure walled garden
  • Easy to deploy and resilient
  • Focused up to date content
  • Low power / solar powered
  • Simple to use
  • Works without internet for accessing cached content

BluPoint has been deployed into six rural locations in and around the Mwandi District, where Connect Africa has built Smart Centres providing connectivity for computers and smart devices.

The connectivity is made possible through using TV White Space (TVWS) as a means of connecting to the wider internet. TVWS wireless technology repurposes unused spectrums that have been allocated to TV broadcasters. BluPoint can utilise this connectivity to perform overnight updates on the content which is then freely available to the community.

The Zambian project will also explore future sustainable business models that catalyse the local ecosystem with a combination of free and paid for resources or services for the benefit of local digital entrepreneurs.

Find out more about BluPoint and its technology through its Future Worlds Discover profile and video.

Mike Santer

Founder, BluPoint

Mike is Founding Director of BluPoint, a social impact business which addresses equitable access to digital information and services, particularly for customers wanting to reach people living in remote and difficult locations. The spinout company builds on pioneering research he led at the University of Southampton. Mike has also served as a Technical Advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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