Dublin tech firm brings internet to remote Africa

19 Dec 2011

Dublin technology company Mandac has won its second major contract with the European Space Agency to provide technology that will make it easy for people in remote regions of Africa to buy broadband.

In many parts of Africa and emerging regions of the world, the only way to get internet access is via satellite connection.

Mandac’s MultiSpot technology offers pre-pay internet access on a low-power platform and supports a range of payment options, including credit/debit card, scratch cards and even mobile phone credit.

This contract with the European Space Agency will facilitate growth to 800,000 registered customers.

500m people in Africa have no internet access

“In Kenya, you’d go through certain areas with poor infrastructure and yet everyone has a mobile phone there,” explained Mandac managing director John Murphy.

“The purpose of the product is to bring pre-pay internet access to areas poorly served by broadband by using a local node and now, through its work with the European Space Agency (ESA), satellite services.

“There are over 500m people in rural Africa, who have no other form of internet access,” said Murphy, adding, “most of whom have no banking accounts, which is why pre-pay is so important.

“It brings pre-pay internet access to people who are in areas with little or no infrastructure,” said Murphy. “The only way you can possibly get internet access in these regions is through satellite. People who couldn’t possibly get it otherwise can now access the internet.”

The company initially rolled out a pilot project across east Africa, and has since won this second contract with the ESA, which will help Mandac implement a version of pre-pay internet access with even cheaper and lower power.

The two projects are running in parallel, with the first valued at €320,000 and the second at €190,000. The ESA is co-funding both projects.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years