By Mark Kawalya
Irregular power supply, or even the total lack of it, is a major bottleneck for the growth of computer usage for many people living in Africa’s far-flung areas. Engineers in Uganda have developed Microfuse, a low-cost device that is aimed at making computing accessible to more people.
The device, which is about the size of a portable hard drive, is being piloted in a school on the outskirts of Kampala, the country’s capital. and can be used even by people without formal education. For use, Microfuse is connected to a monitor via a USB connection, with a keyboard and mouse added to the setup as input devices.
“In a kindergarten like ours, we don’t necessarily hire people who have very good computer knowledge and skills. We hire people who want to work and use computers, but who don’t always have access to the technology. So, the Microfuse device, for example, allows teachers, the treasurer, and myself, the principal, to use a computer. It’s been very easy for all of us,” says Jeff Ssembiro, principal of Jolly Tots Elementary School.
This is a game changer for the school as Microfuse devices are cheaper than mainstream computers, and use less energy. It is therefore a good alternative well suited for school.
Ivan Karugaba, the founder and CEO of Microfuse Technologies, says the drivers for his innovation were when he realized many people were not able to use computers due to the high acquisition costs of computers and the lack of electricity.
“As an engineer, I thought that if I, who come from a middle-class family, had real problems acquiring a computer-which I needed at the university where we are required to write reports or do research and assignments. What about a student from a low-income family?
The Microfuse computer costs $70 and is built from locally sourced materials. The device which can be powered by solar is a good alternative for last-mile users who do not have access to the power grid.
The team at Microfuse Technologies is focusing on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in an effort to remain competitive. The AfCTA is the largest free trade area globally, connecting 1.3 billion people living in 55 countries across Africa. Micofuse Technologies is working around the clock for a mass release of the devices, with plans to launch 10,000 computers in October 2022.