More than 3.5 billion people use smartphones worldwide. But of these, more than 1 billion do not have permanent or frequent access to the Internet. In addition to limiting their access to information and communication, this lack of connectivity is particularly problematic in emergency situations, such as natural disasters, and in impoverished and isolated communities.
The creator of the start-up Bridgefy, Jorge Ríos, explains that this lack of Internet connection is due to the lack of telecommunications infrastructure globally. Ríos, who used to live in Mexico City and frequently experienced earthquakes, felt the need to make it easier to connect to the Internet after an earthquake.
With the aim of alleviating this forced disconnection, in 2014 he created Bridgefy, a piece of software that allows the use of apps without the need for an Internet connection thanks to mesh networks. For this democratization of connectivity, Ríos has been named by MIT Technology Review in Spanish as one of the winners of Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020.
Bridgefy has already been used by 200,000 people during Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and after the 2017 Mexico City earthquake. In this way, thousands of people were able to use different apps to contact their loved ones, even if they had no available Internet connections. It also facilitated the coordination and work of rescue and emergency services.
"We are motivated by being able to change people's lives through our software. We enable people in rural areas to make payments or sell their goods and students to receive education without Wi-Fi. Bridgefy empowers people through their smartphones and makes it easier for them to connect to the Internet in places and situations where it previously wasn't possible due to the Internet infrastructure," Ríos explains. The start-up already brings the Internet to nearly two million people, mainly in developing areas.
Ríos wants to continue his work to remove obstacles to Internet access. That is why he is working on a new free version of his software that can be used by any company. His ultimate goal is to reach 10 million monthly users.
The Director of Alliances, Business Development and Public Affairs for Mexico and Central America at Cognizant (Mexico), Iván Zavala, who is also a member of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020 jury, considers Bridgefy to be an "excellent project," and believes that "the value it brings to society and the impact it has is high."