Irish company to bring internet to remote Africa
Second European Space Agency contract won by Dublin based Mandac
19th December, 2011. Mandac, the Dublin based technology company, has won a second major contract with the European Space Agency for the provision of a 'cloud' version of its internet retailing system. The contract covers the enhancement and deployment of MANDAC's MultiSpot™ system, which is a management and billing service for wireless hotspots. In many parts of Africa and emerging regions of the world, the only way to get internet access is via satellite connection. Mandac is using its MultiSpot™ system to bring the internet to a wider population in developing countries.
Ireland’s membership of ESA is funded by the Irish Government and is managed by Enterprise Ireland. Membership of ESA enables Irish research institutes and companies to participate in ESA programmes and secure valuable contracts.
Congratulating the company, Sean Sherlock T.D. Minister for Research & Innovation said “Mandac’s success is a prime example of how Ireland’s membership of the European Space Agency through Enterprise Ireland is providing highly valuable support to Irish companies in their product development activities and in supporting their access to international markets. This contract is all the more impressive for a high potential start-up company like Mandac and highly significant given the role that start- ups will play in the future development of the Irish economy”.
The Minister added “This project not only shows the significant value of investment in the development of space systems to the Irish technological sector but importantly it also shows the increasing global socio-economic benefits of space infrastructure to citizens everywhere”
‘Mandac is servicing the emerging markets of Africa and the middle east, bringing the internet to people in disadvantaged areas,” says John Murphy, managing director of Mandac. The company developed MultiSpot™, which offers pre-pay internet access on a low-power platform and supports a range of payment options, including credit/debit card, scratch cards and even mobile phone credit. This contract with the European Space Agency will facilitate growth to 800,000 registered customers.
“It's something that was quite an eye-opener. In Kenya you'd go through certain areas with poor infrastructure and yet everyone has a mobile phone there,” says Murphy, pointing out that many customers access the internet via their smart phones.
The purpose of the product is to bring pre-pay internet access to areas poorly served by broadband by using a local node and now, through its work with the European Space Agency (ESA), satellite services. “There are over 500 million people in rural Africa, who have no other form of internet access,” says Murphy, adding, “most of whom have no banking accounts, which is why pre-pay is so important.”
“It brings pre-pay internet access to people who are in areas with little or no infrastructure,” notes Murphy. “The only way you can possibly get internet access in these regions is through satellite. People who couldn't possibly get it otherwise, can now access the internet”.
The company initially rolled out a pilot project across east Africa, and has since won this second contract with the ESA, which will help Mandac implement a version of pre-pay internet access with even cheaper and even lower power. The two projects are running in parallel, with the first valued at €320,000 and the second at €190,000, both co-funded by ESA
Tony McDonald of Enterprise Ireland said, “This is an excellent example of an Irish company developing innovative use of space based systems. Through Enterprise Ireland’s work with the European Space Agency, companies like Mandac are reaching new markets with innovative technologies that have their origin in the space programme”.
Without ESA funding, Mandac would not have been to progress the project. “The pay-back would have been too long,” notes Murphy.
“I would say realistically it wouldn't have been possible because of money constraints. We wouldn't have been able to hire extra people and we wouldn't have been able to come to market so quickly”.
Already Mandac has 1,000 customers in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Congo and Nigeria, and is now on the way to getting 800,000 across east Africa, west Africa, South Africa and the Middle East.
“We're now punching well above our weight,” says Murphy.
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