Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Streetwise: A Simple Computer Terminal for Children

The Streetwise computer terminal is nearly indestructible. I saw first-hand a demonstration of a unit at the MobileActive conference in South Africa last year and was awed when the gent started jumping up and down on it. It’s made for students in developing countries by South African firm Psitek who fabricates the devices in Stellenbosch, just outside Cape Town.

the streetwise computer terminal by Psitek in South Africa

What they are doing is creating tools that might not look like the internet that you’re used to in the West. It’s lean content and services (information and communication) delivered to a lean device. For instance, there is a whole software application working on the backend to pair down content so that it’s quick to send to these devices. (ex: take 100kb of Wikipedia and strip out all but the text content – the whole article, and skip out on the extraneous images and get that file size down to 2kb.)

Why is that important? The device works off of GPRS connection to connect to the broader internet. This means it can work wherever there is a mobile phone coverage, and it works with low signal strength and it’s not nearly as expensive.

  • SIM card holder within the battery space in the back.
  • 12 volt power input
  • 5 USB connections
  • FAX line – low cost options for printing and scanning
  • 64Mb of inbuilt flash memory – can extend via USB to a hard drive (and USB sticks)

Currently, the Streetwise comes in two types; the main terminal (with all the goodies) and then an extension terminal. You can connect 4 extensions to the main terminal. Cost was estimated to me at the time as $350 for the main terminal and $115 for each extension. The main cost for these devices are the GPRS module and fax interface.

If someone does a search on the device, they route all requests through Google on Wikipedia and return the first result. That’s in Beta of course, it will be more robust in the final version, and offer a few more options.

Final Thoughts

I can’t speak for it’s educational value, I’ll save that for the educators, but it is a very interesting device. The fact that they decided to go off of the widely available GPRS services and make it so light-weight and rugged is telling. It’s designed for a specific use, and doesn’t apologize for it. For me, it’s like the OLPC, I don’t know how useful it really is, but I do know that it gets computers into the hands of young children, which offers a huge return over time.


  1. Check out the interview we did with Chris Williamson at MobileActive08 … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17lNUdor4fk

  2. GPRS phones are very widespead in SA – Mxit usage standing at 7million in SA (mostly under 30s), gprs data connections going well beyond this – If you can use Mxit you can use the Internet on your own phone and access wapedia – http://wapedia.mobi/en/ or google. As long you surf mobile optimised sites the cost is cheap – out of bundle – 1mb for the cost of 3 sms’s – in bundle much cheaper.

    The samsung B130 only costs about $30 (R269) (including starter pack) – that appears to have GPRS and a WAP browser

    A Nokia 1680 costs about $60 (R598)(including starter pack) – that has a WAP 2.0/xHTML browser.

  3. Aleutia offers just about the best low-power computing solution for low/no-power environments. Go to http://www.aleutia.com for more info on 8 watt computing. Aleutia low-power computing solutions are already up and running in over 40 countries. Sorry this sounds a bit like a shameless advert, and for full-disclosure, my company is already offering Aleutia solutions for Nigeria!

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