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Ekocenters to empower Rwanda’s women entrepreneurs

“Ericsson and The Coca-Cola Company have announced a pilot project to bring mobile connectivity to EKOCENTER, 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 underserved communities. The pilot project will be conducted in collaboration with Tigo Rwanda and German start-up company, Solarkiosk.

´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,´ said Beatriz Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Coca-Cola Company. ´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, says: ´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.´

The Coca-Cola Company is partnering with Solarkiosk, to roll-out EKOCENTER in six countries in Africa and Asia in 2015. The unique design of the kiosk is tailored to meet the needs of underserved communities.

Lars Kruckeberg, CTO of Solarkiosk, says: “Solarkiosk's mission is the economic and social development in Base of the Pyramid communities worldwide. Our solar-powered, reliable source of energy provides a safe solution for off-the-grid communities, enabling them to conduct everyday activities many of us take for granted. Partnering with Coca-Cola and Ericsson brings us another step closer to fulfilling our goal of helping meet community needs.”

The modular kiosks will be run by local women 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 EKOCENTER sites.“

(Source: Biztech Africa)

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