Eastern Cape-developed app will help connect communities

JANUARY 29, 2016

Communities, schools, hospitals and other organisations may be able to communicate for free using standard wireless technology built into cellphones, laptops and other devices.

They will be do so through an app developed and being refined by three Port Elizabeth-based Internet entrepreneurs who have been selected to take part in the Founders Space accelerator programme in San Francisco, which is ranked among the top 10 Silicon Valley technology incubators in the world by Forbes magazine.

For the next month Mike Kyazze, Sabelo Sibanda and Thulisile Volwana are attending classes, workshops, seminars and mentoring sessions at the Silicon Valley incubator, followed by demos to potential investors.  

“It is an intensive programme which will help us to refine and promote our ‘Tuse’ mesh network app,” says Sibanda.

“The name Tuse is derived from the Spanish, ‘tu se’. Translated to English, it means, ‘you are’.

“Tuse has the ability to have ‘multi hop’ communication. Fully encrypted information and calls is transferred between the sender and recipient by ‘hopping’ from device to device,” he says.

Tuse was founded in July 2015, and is one of the first incubatees in the newly-established Propella business incubator based in Humewood, Port Elizabeth.

The company was selected by both Founders Space and Propella on the strength of its beta (pilot) version of the app, which is available in the Google Store. 

A growing number of uses has been identified for mesh networks.

“The app has the potential to empower communities, to change the way municipalities communicate with residents and to help businesses be more efficient – it ticks all the boxes,” says Ellen Fischat, Propella business support manager.

In the rural areas wireless mesh networks can connect people in areas where there is no cellphone infrastructure or even electricity.

A single cellular or satellite Internet connection could put a whole village online.

In South Africa even where there is cellphone coverage villagers will be able to message each other and even call each other for free through the app as the system does not rely on cellular connections, according to Sibanda.

It can also provide support to teachers and students. Schools and universities are using wireless networks to enable students and educators to exchange files, upload textbooks and to access the Internet.

Municipalities are installing mesh networks to be able to communicate with residents, while doctors and other medical staff are sharing patient information over mesh networks, which have the advantage of not needing cables or other infrastructure, according to Volwana.

Mesh networks are also well suited to temporary venues such as events, construction sites or disaster area.

Support being provided by Founders Space and Propella will help Tuse to commercialise and market their app. 

PHOTO CAPTION: Thulisile Volwana and Sabelo Sibanda at the Propella offices in Port Elizabeth. Partner Mike Kyazze was out of town when the photo was taken.