With Google working on Project Loon, its Internet-delivering balloons, and Facebook’s Connectivity Labs also working to bring Internet connections to remote and developing areas, accessible, Internet-enabled devices are next.
Meet the Millbug Vuya tablet, a solar-powered Android tablet developed by South African entrepreneurs Sabelo Sibanda and Thulisile Volwana.
The tablet is Wi-Fi only, has a seven-inch screen, and runs on the latest version of Android’s operating system, 4.4 KitKat. It has a 1.2GHz processor, 512MB of memory, and 4GB of storage.
The tablet also comes with a solar charger (the duo found that the solar panels they wanted to integrate into the device weren’t powerful enough to charge its battery) and with a detachable power bank that can be charged with the sun’s power because some of the tablet’s components melt in the sun.
Sibanda and Volwana founded Millbug first as an ecommerce site selling women’s clothing. They later pivoted to a technology company after realizing that while South Africa represents a huge ecommerce opportunity, the small screen and limited uses of smartphones are a hindrance. Then the idea of a tablet that could be used even rural Africans came up.
Sibanda and Volwana also created Forefinga, an ecommerce platform that enables ecommerce entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Vuya tablet.
But beyond ecommerce, the Vuya tablet also has major implications for Web development in Africa and other regions lacking a lot of infrastructure. With the rise of browser-based Web development tools, this can mean that people in those areas can more easily learn to program, built apps and sites that are helpful to their lives (or even turn them into a business), and more.
Education is also another big aim, and there are already local college students developing apps for the tablet under Professor Darelle van Greunen at Nelson Mandela Bay University.
Millbug received R35,000 (about $2,400) from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) to help them with this project. Seda also helped the duo with certifications and licenses, which it paid for. Millbuf self-funded the rest.
The tablet was designed in South Africa, but the units are built overseas. Millbug is also talking to some major companies, including some telecommunications players.