At Mobile World Congress 2015 (MWC), Ericsson and Coca-Cola revealed a pilot project, which is intended to bring mobile connectivity to the African continent.
The pilot project is essentially dubbed “Ekocenter”, and is a social enterprise initiative designed to empower community well-being by bringing safe water, solar power and mobile communications, as well as basic goods and services to under served communities. According to Ericsson, Tigo Ghana is also on board with the project as well as German start-up company, Solarkiosk.
At MWC 2015, Beatriz Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer- stated that: “Ekocenter is an innovative social enterprise that endeavors to help communities thrive by providing further access to resources. Engaging new partners to join this journey adds skills and expertise beyond our core enhancing the value for the people in these communities. Connectivity has become a fundamental part of thriving communities and economies. We’re excited about the solutions Ericsson can deliver to EKOCENTER, solutions we believe will foster positive change.”
Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson, added that: “Mobile broadband can address a wide range of issues that hinder development – from poverty to lack of electricity and safe water, to financial exclusion and gender inequality. Creating a community hub is a great way to empower women while making needed services available in a convenient way. The constellation of companies partnering to figure out commercially sustainable business models is very exciting and I think we will need to see much more of this type of innovation going forward to meaningfully address poverty and development in rural areas.”
Tongai Maramba, CEO of Tigo Rwanda, says: “We are excited to be part of pioneering an ecosystem that will change the lives of entire communities. The EKOCENTER is an ideal platform for Rwandans to use our network to develop new skills by accessing different digital services.”
According to The Coca-Cola Company it is partnering with Solarkiosk in order to roll-out the pilot project in six countries in Africa and Asia in 2015. The kiosks will be run by local female entrepreneurs, and serve as a community center where people gather and have access to free and fee-based services. The new connectivity services could include education, health care, mobile commerce, information and entertainment.
Ericsson will initially deploy its Managed Rural Coverage (MRC) solution to provide Internet services to the Ekocenter in rural Rwanda. The company’s TV Anywhere service will enable access to education and healthcare content as well as infotainment capabilities, enabling the kiosk to become a connected hub. Ericsson will also provide Ekocenter with its M-Commerce solution that enables people to make transactions using their mobile wallets. Based on success of implementation, Ericsson will potentially incorporate its services at additional Ekosenter sites.