Solar computer offers hope

Cape Town - Megan Verkuil is ready to start developing her energy-efficient, solar-powered computer with the aim of giving back to communities like the one she called home while growing up.

Verkuil is from Mitchells Plain, Cape Town.

INVENTOR: Frank Martinaux

She and her chief technology officer, Franck Martinaux, have developed the 20w African Android Computer to serve the daily needs of people who live without electricity or telecommunications capacity.

The World Design Capital project, which performs at the same pace whether it is solar-powered or powered conventionally, runs off only 20 watts, compared with a desktop PC which burns an average of 200 to 400ws.

“Support the local people in the local communities. It’s just as good as any desktop computer,” said Verkuil, the chief executive of Capsule Technologies. “Support the locals because then it leads back to our economy.”

While the prototype of the motherboard was built by the French-born Martinaux, Capsule Technologies has already selected a South African manufacturer and are aiming at, yet will not be limited to, poor South African communities as their market.

“If we want to target South Africa, you’re dealing with a lot of informal settlements. We’re looking at the world; any communities that don’t have access to a lot of power,” Martinaux said.

The invention won’t just act as a computer but also a community’s source for the internet. While it has built-in network capabilities with Ethernet, it also has MESH Wi-Fi capabilities, meaning that it could be a source of internet for surrounding computers.

“This computer was originally set up to help under-resourced computers,” Verkuil said. “One computer can act as a network for internet for other computers.”

The eco-friendly motherboard also encourages the recycling of computer parts.

“What we are trying to do with this computer is that you can buy the hard drive and then plug it into your existing keyboard, monitor, mouse; you don’t have to buy anything. Recycling is very important.”

The invention, which is estimated to cost R3 500, is currently being piloted in Gugulethu

. - Cape Times