DESIGN INDABA- OF FLEAS AND LIONS
I recently had an opportunity to represent BRCK in the largest design conference in the world, Design Indaba. At the conference, I had a chance to represent BRCK’s work, but perhaps more importantly, what the work represents in relation to a wider African perspective. Africa has for the longest time endured a perspective and narratives that belie the potential, ingenuity, and drive within its borders. The structures of media messaging that still portray Africa in a certain light don’t help. From a practical perspective, people living in Africa have for the longest time seen western multinational companies that control global resources concern themselves with the huge challenges that face the world, specifically Africa. Internet connectivity is a case in point. Over 3 billion people in the world don’t have adequate connectivity to one of the most important socio-economic resources, over 800 million of those are in Africa. In Kenya, over 35 million of the 45 million people don’t have adequate access to the internet. A majority lack connectivity because they live in places with poor on no internet infrastructure. Many of those who do simply cannot afford it. Studies show the typical low-income Kenyan can only spend an average of 20Kshs on internet bundles (approximately 20USD cents). If you think of the challenge of connecting the next 3 billion people to the internet, I wager the first companies that come to mind are the large ones like Google and Facebook. We have an invisible ceiling of what scale Africans and African companies can think of solutions for Africa. Why cant African companies think of these lion-sized challenges for Africa? Due to lack of resources and other reasons, we relegate ourselves to scratch the surface on issues affecting Africa and Africans, while we surrender the solutions for lion-sized challenges to the west. BRCK and BRCK products challenge this ceiling and with good reason. With SupaBRCK and Moja, we have been working tirelessly to establish an infrastructure that does not rely on traditional infrastructure to connect people to the internet. Imagine getting into a matatu and getting free internet connectivity. BRCK is taking ownership of the connectivity challenge and thinking big. We are connecting the unconnected 3 billion, one user at a time. The same to education. The Kio Kit stands on the shoulders of the predecessors who have come to Africa to try and solve the challenge of providing digital solutions for education in African classrooms. They include one laptop per child from MIT media lab and others. We have taken learnings from challenges these deployments have and built a solution that relies on deep contextual research and design to develop a solution that is pushing digital education even further. Presenting real examples of how BRCK is taking on lion-sized challenges for Africa resonated with the well-informed crowd at Design Indaba, and was in line with like minded speakers who embrace a proactive, afrofuturist perspective that is pushing Africa forward in various fields of media, the arts among others. It also is quite something that the largest design conference is in Africa. Way to go Design Indaba, way to go Africa.