Local audio app helps cut data costs

The team from RLabs CatchUp has developed a widget to spread BBC audio news. (BBC)
The team from RLabs CatchUp has developed a widget to spread BBC audio news. (BBC)

Cape Town - A group of Cape Town developers, who won an opportunity to be included in the BBC development studio, have created a widget that cuts data costs for audio streams.

"In Africa, particularly, we're very data conscious and we're aware that even the most simple websites consume a lot of data," RLabs CatchUp team lead Kurt Appolis told Fin24.

The team developed a widget then that would allow for less data intensive audio streaming of BBC news content, particularly in developing markets.

Data is a key concern for internet users in South Africa and Africa as costs remain a barrier to the full use of internet services.

Unlike a typical audio widget that consumes large amounts of data, the technology developed by RLabs CatchUp means that it is likely to lower the usability barrier in SA and other developing countries.

"You're looking at a very small bite-sized audio clip that could be consumed in a very short time and while some websites may have widgets, our widget is focused on using the least amount of data, yet giving the user the most information," Appolis said.

But widgets aren't new and Appolis said that the technology was the ideal tool to grant access to people who might not otherwise have the ability to access news and information.

"What we looked at during the brainstorming session is: 'How do we make it efficient to the user?' And the widget also works for the blind."


Radio streaming can consume large amounts of data of time. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

The team spent three days in brainstorming and development sessions, but the going wasn't easy as they struggled to reach consensus on how to best develop an idea.

"It was quite frustrating as a matter of fact because we're all very passionate about South Africa and change and all of that," said team member Christine Taphel.

But despite some criticism early on in the process, Taphel said that the team developed a singular focus.

"Once we decided what we want to do - and it was decided that simplicity is the key to our project - we were not going to change our project; we were not going to change our idea."

Agreements between the BBC and the team allows for the news organisation to have a period of exclusivity to build and test the technology.

"If we choose not to take it [the widget technology] forward following testing, the team can take the idea to other organisations," the BBC said.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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