As part of the United Nations’ (UN) efforts to halve extreme poverty by 2015, the Millennium Villages project was instituted as a way to test various educational and technological solutions to the challenge of uplifting the poorest communities on the planet. The goal is to create scalable models of poverty alleviation by using cost-effective and innovative technologies to give inhabitants of these villages the means to become educated, informed and economically active.
As part of this initiative, Ericsson and pan-African mobile operator Zain have joined forces to build a wind and solar powered mobile infrastructure site in Dertu, Kenya – one of the UN’s Millennium Villages.
This “clean energy” site provides people living in Dertu and surrounding areas access to reliable and affordable mobile communication services. It also provides access to various government, health and educational services previously only accessible by going to the closest city – Garissa – some 100 kilometres away via dirt road.
Access to these mobile services has transformed Dertu into a centre of economic activity in the region, with demand for second-hand cellular handsets, charging facilities, sim cards and accessories increasing. Apart from trade directly related to the mobile industry, other economic benefits include the ability to order goods and services, notify authorities of water shortages, or sharing information about weather and crops by telephone.
With more than 3,000 call minutes being logged daily, proof of the demand for such services among Africa’s poorest communities is evident. Elaine Weidman, Vice President, Sustainability at Ericsson, says: “The Dertu experience demonstrates that even people in the most remote parts of the world can be connected with a positive business case. The key to ongoing success will be combining innovative solutions, public-private partnerships and new business models.”
It is hoped that success stories like Dertu not only have a positive outcome for its people and surrounding communities, but that it will inspire public and private sector players to import the approach and technologies into other regions in Africa and around the world, thereby giving poor communities the opportunity and means for self-upliftment.