Our solution addresses the challenge in two levels:
We have developed a compact offline portable web and email network server powered by battery pack, charged with a mini solar panel and we call it Lokole, named after a musical/communications instrument used by our ancestors in the Congo, DRC (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lokole). The Lokole device minimizes data bandwidth when it connects to Internet to exchange information with the Lokole cloud server.This reduces the cost of data so that 100 people would share a $1 per day to send as many emails with attachments as they wish. This would be affordable and sustainable for the marginalized and rural communities.
To promote trade, we havecreated a local and inclusive startup group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)where marginalized young people gather to learn about our technology (Lokole) hardware and software to help them become their own employers by building and commercializing the Lokole. In this platform young people will continue to develop the Lokole device, to add more local digital contents to continue to help bridge the digital divide.
Why do we focus on email communication?
Email communication is a must and inevitable tool to use for open trade and market access which have proven to be key drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction in countries at every level of development, because email is as fast a form of written communication as any. If you have a product or service to sell, email is an effective medium to get your message out. Data storage and contacts can be accessed quickly and easily. Sent and received messages and attachments can be stored safely, logically and reliably. It is a lot easier to organize emails than paper or social media. Incoming messages have subject lines that mean you can delete without opening. Storing data online means less large, space taking file cabinets, folders and shelves. You can access information far quicker if you learn how to use email this way. Web based email means you can access your messages anywhere online. Used well, email really is a superb communication and productivity tool.
Unfortunately, due to high price of mobile Internet data, lack of Internet infrastructures and intermittent electricity, government, private institutions and more than 90% of the population in the DRC and in many other countries in Africa do not use emails at all, but social media for all their communications needs. This is not healthy. I had a meeting with one of the municipality mayors in the city of Kinshasa. He told me communications between the municipalities is done with hard copy by hand.
To understand the situation, let’s look at the statistics of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the second largest country in Africa, where I am originally from:
a. Population: 86,727.573 https://www.internetworldstats.com/africa.htm#cd
Mobile Phone subscribers: 44% https://www.export.gov/article?id=Congo-Democratic-Republic-Telecommunication
Internet users: 8.7% https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm
Average daily living income: Less than US$1.90/day https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/drc/overview
The Lokole innovative solutions was created in order to fully harness the potential of trade to advance the livelihoods of the 1 billion people who still live off of $1.25 per day, to address the constraints that limit rural communities from achieving greater economic gains.
The Lokole will increase competitiveness and give comparative advantages to communities traditionally left out of trade opportunities
The Lokole will improve the ability of rural communities to move across skills, industries, and regions
The Lokole will facilitate the integration of rural markets with the global economy.