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The Tiny Israeli Device That’s Going to Make a Huge Difference in Our Lives

The $7 device is loaded with Google’s Android 4.4 operating system. Plug it into the USB port of any old laptop or desktop, and you’ve got a personal computer.

If you can put data on a USB drive, why not put an entire operating system on a stick?

It’s a simple but brilliant idea. Nissan Bahar of Israel and Francesco (Franky) Imbesi of Italy are making it happen in remote places of the world where computers aren’t a dime a dozen. They discovered that five billion people, or 70% of the world’s population, have no access to personal computing, and they intend to change that.

The $7 Keepod thumb drive is loaded with a unique version of Google’s Android 4.4 operating system. Plug it into the USB port of any old laptop, netbook or desktop, and – voila! – you’ve got a personal computer with your own password-protected settings, programs and files.

Bahar and Imbesi have introduced the Keepod (Hebrew for “porcupine” but with obvious wordplay in English) to a school in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya, through a partnership with the organization LiveInSlums. They use refurbished computers that would otherwise clog landfills.

“We’re breaking a few paradigms in the world of computing and digital devices,” says Bahar.

“There are a lot of initiatives for bringing computers to developing countries, but it’s impossible to bring a laptop per person. There’s not enough material in the world for that. Our approach is that instead of providing a personal computer, we use shared computers and provide a stick with an operating system on it so you have your own PC environment on a shared computer.”

He likens the model to public transport. “Not everyone can have a shiny car, so you hop on a bus.”

The other paradigm-smashing aspect of Keepod is the notion that fancier is better. Bahar maintains that using basic pre-owned computers without hard drives solves lots of cyber-security problems.


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