Rwanda’s ‘solar smart kiosk’ provides digital solutions to rural mobile phone users

Mobile phone prevalence is on the rise in Africa, but charging devices can be a struggle, especially in areas with limited access to electricity. More than 640 million people remain without power, according to information from the African Development Bank.
Entrepreneur Henri Nyakarundi created a “solar smart kiosk” out of frustration from his experiences struggling to find a place to charge his Blackberry in Rwanda. His solution was a stand-alone cart that runs on renewable energy and serves as a one-stop digital center for mobile phone users in semi-urban and rural areas.
In addition to offering an unlimited charging space at a flat fee, clients are also able to buy airtime and make mobile money transfers. The latest kiosk model also offers access to digital content — from educational and health content to videos and music in local languages — via an offline mobile application.
ARED, the parent company behind the solar mobile kiosk, worked with German hardware developers to create a process where content is stored on a server then distributed via a WiFi system installed on the cart using an intranet system.
When the business first started, Nyakarundi said customers were constantly requesting access to internet or access to content. He realized that available internet services were expensive for the majority of his customer base and that he could expand his business model beyond charging stations.