The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is a community-led initiative intended to address the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa, village by village. By providing affordable, science-based solutions and technologies the project aims to help people lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
Africa has the greatest proportion of people living in extreme poverty. While there has been some progress on the MDGs, still more than 32% or approximately 300 million people live on less than one dollar per day. The impact of this poverty is far reaching---throughout the continent, every year millions of people—mainly children—die wholly preventable deaths because they simply cannot afford or even obtain access to prevention or treatment.
The MDGs are set to halve the levels of extreme poverty in developing regions while also covering improvements in the fields of education, health care, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Ericsson has committed to help achieve the MDGs by promoting affordable access to telecommunications.
Ericsson is a leading technology partner in the MVP, together with the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise, and UNDP. Since Ericsson became part of the initiative in 2007, more than 500,000 people in 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have benefitted from mobile connectivity, which has resulted in improved access to health care and education and has helped boost people’s livelihoods.
Affordable and accessible mobile broadband can help break the cycle of poverty for millions of people around the world. Building on a range of ongoing projects, Ericsson has developed business cases and introduced new solutions to benefit those at the base of the pyramid. Ericsson has also joined new partnerships supporting achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Mobile phone technology is the basis for many of the groundbreaking tools and systems developed for the MVP. With billions of mobile phone users worldwide and as many as 754 million mobile subscriptions in Africa, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, the ICT revolution has transformed the way people live and is the driving force for economic development in the world today.
Ericsson engages in the MVP by providing mobile broadband connectivity to enable 3G voice and data access, while working to integrate mobile technology into all project activities. Ericsson has brought internet access to local schools and health centers, and together with operators, has helped to establish toll free emergency numbers. With support from the previous mobile phone joint venture with Sony, more than 2,000 phones have been provided to community health workers to support mobile health applications and professional communication. Currently, together with Sony Mobile, Ericsson is in the process of upgrading the phones provided in 2007 to smartphones. Mobile connectivity has had a positive impact on areas such as health care, education and business development in the Millennium Villages.
Health - Mobility has had a particularly high impact on health care, leading to improved response times in emergency situations, reduced isolation, and better training and equipment for health care workers. Mobile phone based health services such as Open Medical Record System and ChildCount+, a platform specifically aimed at registering patients, monitoring nutrition, immunizations and have shown that community health workers now deliver better-quality and more efficient health-care services. By distributing mobile phones to the villages’ community health care providers, children under five, pregnant women and newborns can now be monitored and patient records generated. Connecting the health workers is also one part of a new joint continent wide One Million Health Workers campaign, the aim of which is to train, equip and deploy 1 million community health care workers throughout rural Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2015, reaching millions of underserved people.
Education - In the Connect To Learn initiative , a public-private partnership, Ericsson combines mobility, broadband and cloud services to promote access to and quality of secondary-school education and also provides scholarships especially for girls. This initiative was initially introduced in schools as part of the MVP. In two years, 15,000 students have received access to quality educational resources enabled by the cloud based ICT solution deployed in their schools.
Livelihoods - Every ten percent increase in broadband penetration is shown on average to deliver a growth in GDP of 1 percent. In developing and emerging markets, broadband penetration has a significant effect on economic growth, with some 80 jobs created for every 1,000 broadband connections. The potential is evident: the challenge is to unlock it for the benefit of the “last billion” users at the base of the pyramid.
In business and societal development, there is evidence of reduced transportation costs and strengthened markets and social networks. In households, mobile phones help to strengthen social networks and ensure better household support in times of need. Small businesses are flourishing in the MVP; two thirds of people have cut travel costs by using mobile connectivity, often as much as USD 5 per trip outside the village. The project also provides farmers with the opportunity to access information about the availability of goods and pricing from vendors without having to travel.
The development of m-commerce has enabled those in Rwanda with access to the internet to establish small businesses such as basket weaving and sell their products online. In Dertu, Kenya new roads and trucking routes have led to the establishment of small shops. Overall, an increase in connectivity has enabled those without bank accounts to make payments using their mobile phones and avoid traveling long distances.