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.

Finweek English Edition - - TREND THE WEEK - Ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

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

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