Young South Africans develop “innovative” personal computer

July 28, 2019 • Southern Africa, Startups

Luyanda Vappie (left) and Motsholane Sebola (right), Founders of Root Tech and creators of Prism.

Luyanda Vappie (left) and Motsholane Sebola (right), Founders of Root Tech and creators of Prism.

Two young South Africans aim to disrupt modern-day computing with their newest creation. They claim to have built the world’s first personal computer (PC) with virtual input and output peripherals. These creators aim to enhance the usability and mobility of computer devices in areas where connectivity and electricity are scarce. This new computer does not require a monitor, mouse or keyboard.

The creators, Luyanda Vappie from the Eastern Cape and Motsholane Sebola from Limpopo, first came up with the idea for their creation 2 years ago. They were driven by the need to digitalize and improve the accessibility of technological devices in rural areas. The device is called Prism and is said to be the world’s first computer to have a virtual keyboard and mouse, as well as a virtual screen. Prism strives to enhance digital skills by improving the accessibility of digital literacy tools.

Prism is a small, compact device that produces approximately 2Ghz of processing power. The device is equipped with Bluetooth, LAN, wireless and a battery that can last up to 2 hours. The computer’s on-board memory is 64GB and is extendable by SD Card to over 200GB. Vappie and Sebola grew up with an interest in technology, software engineering, business analysis and systems development. Both creators studied Information Technology at a tertiary education institution. They hope to use their knowledge and skills to make smart technologies available to “ordinary” South Africans.

“It has also always been our dream to improve our country, especially the rural communities. Technologies need to be usable and accessible in areas where electricity was limited,” says Vappie. Vappie also added that Prism will change the way people think about computers. “It is portable and can be used anywhere and at any time. Our aim is to deploy it to schools in areas with low connectivity as digital goods and ensure that the curriculum is available offline,” Vappie comments.

“We have several deployment models that include tooling, up-skilling and employment of local resources to support devices deployed at schools. We are excited to contribute towards the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Goal for Quality Education and have been invited to speak at a [number of United Nations conferences] on how technology can contribute to the Quality Education SDG,” Vappie says.

Sebola says Prism represents the future of computing, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents an opportunity for young people to be innovative. “What we have essentially done is [to] create virtualised components for input and output devices and in a compact unit that can be used anywhere. An all-in-one solution that incorporates virtual input peripherals and [display] in a single convenient package. It is highly interactive and usable in both urban and rural environments,” comments Sebola.

The young innovators’ future plan is to successfully commercialise Prism and build a manufacturing facility in South Africa that will create more engineering jobs for young people, especially those who reside in rural areas. Vappie and Sebola own a company called Root Tech, which is an African original-equipment manufacturer (OEM). The company is based in Johannesburg and functions in the consumer electronics market.

Edited by Kojo Essah

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