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Africa: Mobile communications for rural homes
Highway Africa News Agency
Ericsson, the world's leading telecommunications supplier, has announced that it is partnering with The Earth Institute at Columbia University to provide connectivity to the Millennium Villages project.
The partnership is designed to bring mobile communication and Internet services to approximately 400,000 people in 10 African countries where the project is being implemented. The Millennium Villages project is a community-led initiative whose aim is to lift rural African communities out of extreme poverty trapping hundreds of millions of people throughout the continent. Currently working with 79 villages of approximately 5,000 people per village, the project is tackling challenges related to agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, gender equality, business development and other vital issues.
The Millennium Villages project is a partnership between The Earth Institute, Millennium Promise and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Carl-Henric Svanberg, President and CEO of Ericsson, says: "Our commitment to the Millennium Villages is in line with our vision to be the prime driver in an all-communicating world. It will allow us to apply our core technology for social, economic and environmental benefits while at the same time stimulating new business development in emerging markets." The Earth Institute, led by Jeffrey Sachs, has made a dramatic impact on these communities by driving initiatives that have inspired change. Providing these developing villages with mobile communications will not only improve basic infrastructure such as healthcare, education and safety, but equally important, will be a foundation for fostering economic growth and development. The integration of information and communication technologies plays a critical role in ending the cycle of poverty. Around the world, mobile technologies are proving to be important tools in expediting information sharing and creating pockets of entrepreneurial enterprises among poor, rural communities.
At the same time, they also enhance and boost existing systems in education, health care and business. As basic interventions are achieving success in the Millennium Villages, communications technologies can help take the fight against poverty a step further. Jeffrey Sachs, who is also the Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, says: "We are pleased to be working with a leader like Ericsson as we continue to make strides in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to reduce extreme poverty and hunger by half while improving education, health, gender equality and sustainability by 2015." "With more than 3 billion mobile subscribers around the world, the mobile phone plays a key role as one of the most powerful tools to fight poverty, particularly for poor communities in remote areas of the world. Mobile technology will not only facilitate communication beyond borders, but will also be an engine for empowerment and a driving force for economic growth." As the dominant telecom supplier in Africa, Ericsson will tap relationships with African operators, including MTN and Zain (formerly known as MTC) and its subsidiary Celtel, in order to develop a comprehensive end-to-end telecommunication strategy in the villages and to drive mobile phone connectivity and coverage build-out to selected areas. Ericsson will also work closely with the operators to identify and develop telecom services and applications customized to meet the needs of the villages. For example, Ericsson will apply its products and solutions to focus on stimulating business opportunities, improving basic needs in the fight against AIDS and malaria, bringing Internet access to schools, boosting agricultural development and providing emergency communications. Ericsson will also help to bring connectivity to power remote and resource-poor areas through the use of renewable energy technologies, as the company has done in other developing markets like India. In the first phase of the partnership, Ericsson and Sony Ericsson will supply a number of mobile and fixed wireless phones to the communities in an effort to bring the benefits of connectivity to areas such as agriculture, health, education and infrastructure.
Ericsson and Sony Ericsson have also co-developed a solar village charger for mobile phones that will be provided to each village. This new product concept is capable of recharging at least 30 mobile phone batteries per day and eight phones simultaneously for each village.
The Earth Institute
The Millennium Villages
United Nations Development Programme