BLOLAB, a start-up in Benin is turning plastic jerricans into computers using recycled components and distributing them to the public at a low cost.
Arthur Dadjo is a student in Cotonou, Benin, where innovation and recycling meet. For the past year, he has been using a computer he built himself. It is made from a plastic jerrycan, recycled materials and parts from an old or broken computer to build what would become the computer’s motherboard and hard drive.
Locals call it ‘Jerry’ after the name of the containers. With royalty-free software installed, it is as good as new. And most importantly, cheaper.
‘You can find a complete office computer between 300 and 350,000 in West African CFA franc, the local currency,’ he said. ‘But with the components we bought with the help of the startup, we spent about 100 to 150,000 [CFA franc] to have this computer.’
BloLab, a digital innovation lab working in the fields of education and digital technology, makes these ‘Jerry’ computers. The startup regularly organises workshops to teach people how to make their own computers for free.
Medard Agbayazon, the founder of BloLab, says in addition to giving people access to cost effective products, the trainers want to help develop skills in innovation.
The second objective is to stimulate creativity in children. He says when they learn to do these ‘Jerrys,’ they also learn how to solve problems they are confronted with in their environment, using the material or the means they have at their disposal.
Experts believe that the computer is increasingly an indispensable working tool and that initiatives such as BloLab’s should be encouraged.
Ali Shadai, is with Open Nsi, an organisation focusing on digital transformation of companies.
‘A computer is a door to a world of opportunities,mand making it accessible to the greatest number of people is beneficial for these people and for society in general,’ he said. ‘BloLab’s effort is positive.’
The training to learn how to build a ‘Jerry’ is offered for free. But participants must find the components to build their own computers themselves.
BloLab has been in operation for 4 years and founders say that hundreds of people have already taken advantage of the training sessions and built their computer.
The startup is now working to make these self-built computers available to schools located in remote areas. With that, BloLab says, it would bridge the digital gap one ‘Jerry’ at a time.