As Juliana Rotich explained in a June 2013 TED video, in some ways, the digital revolution has rippled through the world much like the scientific and industrial revolutions before it: inequitably.
“These revolutions have not been evenly distributed across continents and nations,” she said. “Never have been.”
Rotich’s home nation of Kenya, and indeed the entire African continent, has historically been “sort of cut off” from these world-changing movements, she said. And even now, with undersea fiber optic cables encircling the continent, Rotich calls living in Africa, “living on the edge, metaphorically and quite literally, when you think about connectivity before 2008.”
Thanks to Rotich and her team of innovators, however, the digital revolution is making headway in Africa, first with the development of open-source information collection and visualization software called Ushahidi, and most recently with a crowdfunded connectivity device called BRCK.
The Kickstarter video for BRCK calls the hardware “a local solution for a local problem,” and that turns out to be a pretty fair description of Rotich herself. The Kenyan native received her computer science degree from the University of Missouri, Kansas City before being inspired to co-found the non-profit Ushahidi when violence disrupted the 2007-2008 presidential elections in Kenya.
The software allowed the media to locate and cover crowdsourced reports of violence. Since that time, Ushahidi has been used to help citizens deal with crises in Congo, Haiti and Chile.
Ushahidi, however, was just the beginning. Rotich then co-founded iHub, a co-working and incubator space in Nairobi that recently celebrated its third anniversary. But even with revolutionary software and an innovative technology hub, the problem of connectivity remained. Fortunately, so did Rotich’s commitment to keeping Africa entrenched in the digital revolution.
“One thing that remains, despite the leaps in progress of the digital revolution, is the electricity problem,” Rotich told a TEDGlobal crowd in Edinburgh, Scotland. “The day-to-day frustration of dealing with this can be…let’s just say, very annoying.” read more..