Across the globe internet usage has never been higher, with millions stuck at home to stay safe from the COVID-19 Pandemic, being online to work, play and connect has proven vital. Governments and health services have also utilised a range of internet technologies to deliver important information and track the spread of the virus. But what about those who don’t have access to the internet in the first place? Thankfully some incredible solutions are being found, and first launched in July, a fleet of high-altitude balloons has started delivering internet service to remotes communities in Kenya.
This is Kenya’s Story of Gratitude for the remarkable Internet Balloons.
The technology has previously only been used in emergency situations, with the balloons rolled out in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria wiped out cell towers. But recognising the importance of internet access during the Pandemic and understanding the lack of services available in many African nations, some big tech companies got together to find a solution; Including Telkom Kenya and Loon, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. With Kenya chosen as the first country to receive the technology, with others to follow if it proves successful in the first trial.
So far the results have been impressive, so how do the balloons work? They’re fitted with solar panels which power the balloon’s operations and beam internet signals to earth. Using a special crane, the balloons are propelled to the stratosphere, a height of about 20km above the earth. Artificial intelligence software installed in the balloons’ computers controls the floating movements using wind power. A single balloon can provide internet connectivity to an area of about 80km in diameter and serve about 1,000 users on the ground.
The signal strength provides a reliable signal and browsing speeds that are equivalent to 4G. Now with the technology, so many of us take for granted, the people of Kenya are taking full advantage and utilising their new high-speed internet in a range of ways. The first of which has facilitated health organisations to provide vital information to communities so they can protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus. But it by no means stops there, families who would otherwise visit one another are using Zoom, WhatsApp and other software to stay connected.
Meanwhile across towns and villages that have long gone without, local schools are using the technology to enhance the education they are able to deliver to their students. For those suffering serious injury or illness, their local doctors have been able to utilise telehealth services to connect with specialists in the cities overcoming the ‘Tyranny of Distance’. Then there are some exciting new developments, with farmers able to sell their products online for the first time, artists sharing their work to a global audience and even apps being developed in the local area to meet the community’s unique needs.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has thrown up new challenges for everyone and yet provided an amazing opportunity to solve problems that have existed for so long. Imagine the possibilities, with the immense talents of rural Kenya now able to be shown to the world, the next music sensation might be uploading their latest song to Youtube right now via one of these amazing balloons. If you or anyone you know has utilised the balloon internet technology, please contact us here, as the Share Gratitude community would like to thank those involved.
We encourage you to follow us for more Stories of Gratitude and invite you to share your story – or send a simple message of Gratitude to those behind this initiative, please visit sharegratitude.com