The Stack Archive

Outernet brings digital content to world’s most isolated communities

Fri 20 Mar 2015

Outernet, a small U.S.-based broadcast company, has launched its first digital library in Kenya today as it embarks on its mission to make information accessible to everyone, even in the most remote locations.

Using satellites Outernet is able to transfer information to on-land receivers; either community hubs named Pillar, or smaller portable receivers called Lantern currently priced at $169 (approx. £114).

These two receivers are able to hold large volumes of multimedia content, including video, news, books, webpages, and audio files. These can then be accessed wirelessly from mobile devices such as phones and tablets without the need for an internet connection.

A Pillar receiver was today installed in a Kenyan school, and the company hopes to complete the placement of its first 100 Pillars by the end of the month. Outernet also announced that it would be launching a fleet of its own satellites into space by January 2016 in partnership with UK Space Agency, and the Scottish manufacturer Clyde Space, who last week won a £1mn deal to build three CubeSats for the firm.

Launched early last year and incubated by the Media Development Investment Fund, the Outernet project hopes to achieve an alternative to the internet for access to information, unlike the model which the likes of Facebook and Google are pushing with initiatives such as Internet.org and Project Loon, which seeks to use balloons to create networks in challenging geographical regions.

“Outernet is the modern version of shortwave radio,” said the company’s founder Syed Karim. “As the world moves towards a global knowledge-driven economy, more than three billion people are excluded by cost, geography or jurisdiction. Outernet will increase opportunities for everyone to access digital news and information, allowing greater access to opportunity and education than anything that currently exists.”

The service delivers a complete mix of information and media requested by the users themselves, as well as additional materials curated by Outernet. “We’re making space and communication more democratic […] The more players you have the better the market,” said Thane Richard, the company’s chief operating officer. “You can’t stop the signal […] It’s basic and simple and I think because of that, it’s essential.”



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