Avanti Communications Group plc, a provider of satellite data communications services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), launches ECO – a new sustainable digital inclusion initiative focused on providing affordable, superfast satellite broadband to schools and their local communities across Sub-Saharan Africa.
ECO delivers connectivity that drives economic and social gains for children, families, communities and businesses across the region. It allows countries to bridge the digital divide and increase iGDP by fulfilling, in a sustainable manner, the aims of national broadband strategies and the strategic programmes they support. In addition, it also addresses the issue of providing connectivity to ‘unbanked’ consumers via the use of an app, which allows communities to purchase and trade broadband credits.
Avanti’s first ECO contract, announced with the European Space Agency (ESA) includes a contribution of €10.7 million to aid in the deployment of the ECO initiative to 1,400 sites across Sub-Saharan Africa over the next two years. Under the contract, Avanti will partner with Newtec to roll out an innovative technology platform that will deliver affordable connectivity, and will provide services through multiple partners.
Memorandums of Understanding on ECO have been signed with the South African Ministry of Communications and Sentech in South Africa; Wananchi, Intersat and Imarasat in Kenya; and the Tanzania Education Authority. Many other governments, Service Providers and other Avanti partners have expressed support for the ECO initiative. This includes World Bank International Finance Corporation, Telkom Kenya, Internet Solutions, Safaricom, iWayAfrica, iSat Africa, MainOne, Nynex, TelOne, Quantis, Newtec and Discovery Learning Alliance.
David Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Avanti, said: “Through product innovation and a partner strategy we have found an economically viable way to deliver broadband to low income customers in rural Africa. Working with governments and local Service Providers, and with support from ESA, this first project is a significant step towards creating something that we hope will address a need across the entire continent. When HYLAS 4 launches we will be able to cover every country in Africa.”
How does ECO work?
The solar-powered ECO Wi-Fi hotspots will be hosted at schools that will benefit from subsidised Internet access. Consumers and local businesses, within range of the ECO Wi-Fi hotspot, will also benefit from connectivity by using the ECO mobile app to make micropayments for broadband usage.
Avanti has a proven pedigree of delivering connectivity to hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of children in Sub-Saharan Africa gained from leadership roles in similar major initiatives, such as the iMlango and iKnowledge projects. This experience, which includes working with the Department for International Development (DFID), UK Space Agency and other partners, will be invaluable in making ECO a success.
Why is it needed?
It is well documented that wider Internet access will drive social transformation and economic growth in education, government and key industries. McKinsey predicts3 that iGDP could rise from 1pc to 10pc by 2025 and potentially add $300 billion a year to Africa’s GDP in that period. ECO will support a number of global initiatives that aim to help realise that potential, including the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include targets for Internet connectivity, education and economic growth, amongst others.