Daniel Becerra: Connecting the Unconnected in a Digitally Divided World
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Daniel Becerra, the CEO and founder of BuffaloGrid, who’s joining us all the way from Liverpool, England!
Spiffy: Great to have you here today, Daniel. Let’s jump right in. What challenge are you addressing with BuffaloGrid?
Daniel: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Did you know that the world is digitally divided? Four billion people, or half the population of the planet, have never experienced the internet, but 3.4 billion live in places where there is 3G or 4G available. Connecting the unconnected has nothing to do with coverage. The real problems are affordability, consumer readiness, lack of relevant content, and poor power infrastructure. BuffaloGrid’s solar-powered StreamSpot+ gives users a place to charge mobile devices as well as access a world of digital content and services.
Spiffy: That’s impressive! What motivated you to do it?
Daniel: Growing up in Mexico City, I witnessed first hand the vast economic gulf that exists in society. Today that divide is greater than ever and I believe that by providing free power and digital services to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid the playing field can be leveled, creating a more socially and economically fair world.
Spiffy: Can you elaborate on the work your company does that helps in developing a more equitable world?
Daniel: During COVID-19, access to digital services has enabled people to work from home, access healthcare info, and educate their children remotely. In contrast, the unconnected are left behind, with billions unable to access digital services, worsening COVID-19’s impact on their lives. By connecting the unconnected, underserved users can access services supporting development (education, banking, farming, healthcare), providing them with the tools and content required to improve their quality of life.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent BuffaloGrid initiative and the impact that it makes.
Daniel: At BuffaloGrid we believe life is better with the internet, but it’s clear fake news is a real problem. We collaborated with WhatsApp to bring their ‘Spread Joy, Not Rumours’ campaign to villages across Northern India through our network of solar-powered community-level mobile phone charging hubs. Anyone charging their phone on one of our hubs was shown a message from WhatsApp on the simple steps to take to protect them and their loved ones from falling foul of fake news.
Spiffy: If I may, Daniel, please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Daniel: Sure, Spiffy. Failure is part of the journey; we will always fail at some point. The key thing is to keep trying until the problem is solved.
Spiffy: What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Daniel: Always keep perspective and have your priorities sorted. Sometimes work problems can be overwhelming but when you compare those to life challenges they become less overwhelming.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience before I let you go?
Daniel: The world is full of really id challenges, or civilization-level problems; the size of the problem should never intimidate and stop you from trying to find a solution.
Spiffy: Well said! Thanks for speaking with me today, Daniel—it’s been an honor!
Daniel Becerra is the CEO and founder of BuffaloGrid, a company bringing mobile power and digital services to the next billion users across frontier markets. He holds an MA in Innovation Design Engineering from the Royal College of Art and a MSc from Imperial College London. (First published on the Ladderworks website on February 25, 2022)© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.