A digital library for everyone South African digital media start-up Eduze is providing users across the country with free access to its rich digital library. The best part? No 3G or ADSL or electricity required.
media and content company Eduze has developed a mobile platform that operates like a digital library, offering free educational content to the public via their mobile devices. Co-founder and CEO Charlie Beuthin says going to the library, where he could access a wealth of knowledge for free, was a big part of his childhood. He wanted to create something similar for digital content.
However, high data costs, slow speeds and unreliable networks proved to be a challenge in distributing digital content, especially video. For this reason, it was important for Eduze to create its own content delivery platform using WiFi and that’s where chief technology officer Marko Nieminen came in.
Nieminen developed Cloud-in-a-Box, or CLOX, technology, which allows any type or size of content, for example a PDF, movie, eBook, podcast or music, games and apps, to be distributed at high speeds. A 500MB file can be sent in around five minutes, with no data costs, and stream videos with no buffering, says Beuthin. The boxes, which can be connected to a solar panel and create their own WiFi networks, do not need a 3G or ADSL internet connection or mains electricity to work.
Type of content
The box comes in different sizes and can be placed where there is a “captive” audience, says Beuthin. This includes taxis, buses, schools, community centres, clinics and hospitals, soccer stadiums, restaurants and learning centres.
Content is stored on the box using a cloud management system. Eduze’s content managers can upload content remotely to any box. The content can then be redistributed from the box, using WiFi.
About 85% of Eduze’s 18-person team work on content research. The boxes are also contextualised to provide content that is relevant to certain audiences. Content in a school will be different to content offered in a bus in KwaZuluNatal, explains Beuthin. “We try to be culturally sensitive to different environments in terms of the content we put onto each of these boxes.”
But the primary goal is to spread access to knowledge, which may come in various forms of edutainment. Entertainment content can also be used to incentivise better performance. For example, teachers can offer to give a free song away, using the box, to five of the best-performing students. The content is sourced from some of the world’s leading education and entertainment publishers. It includes films from major studios and corporations as well as contributions from individuals.
“We might have a local teacher with maths study notes to share, or Paramount Pictures could give us a big movie,” he says.
A user can connect any WiFi-enabled device to the Eduze free WiFi network wherever it is available, and download content for free and uncapped. It also plans to launch its iOS and Android apps in the coming weeks, which would allow downloads over the internet.
Eduze generates revenue from advertising and sponsorship. However, there are plans to introduce a premium content section that users will have to pay for, says Beuthin. “We would like up to 85% of our content to be free.”
Partnering with TED
Eduze recently received an investment from non-profit TED. This is the first venture capital investment TED has made worldwide, which is a big achievement for a South African business, says Beuthin. Besides the capital, the partnership has provided many opportunities for Eduze to partner with more content producers. Eduze’s team also has a chance to interact with and learn from TED’s team of curators. “Their vision is so powerful and to be part of that is an amazing opportunity for us,” he says.
Eduze is presently rolling out its services across SA, and plans to launch its services in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The business model is one that can be replicated in any emerging market where the normal internet infrastructure is not working, or is unreliable, slow or costly, says Beuthin.
One of the goals for Eduze is to make digital libraries accessible to people. The platform can also empower entrepreneurs, who can earn money from selling content if they have a box.
“We are not trying to replace the internet. We are trying to augment it as a service, where if you want rich media or the latest music, you can come to the Eduze library to get it quickly and for free.”
Charlie Beuthin Co-founder and CEO of Eduze