With size comes responsibility


As Ericsson grew and expanded into new markets in other countries, operations entailed growing influence. The countries that have chosen to buy Ericsson products have namely often become more or less dependent on the company, its employees and services. Ericsson has therefore made commitments to these countries and the people who live there in a number of ways, not the least in the Third World.

In Bangladesh, which is one of the world's poorest countries, Ericsson participated for example in a development project in conjunction with the millennium shift to improve conditions in the rural areas together with among others, the Swedish development agency SIDA and the Norwegian mobile operator Grameen Telecom. Ericsson built base stations and even participated in a collaborative initiative that enabled women – who are among Bangladesh's most vulnerable groups – to take out "micro-loans" to buy mobile phones.

This resulted in many villages obtaining connections to the outside world for the first time ever. And in development there consequently being able to gain momentum. In many villages the women who owned mobile phones suddenly became central figures and could begin operating their own businesses. As an example, one woman opened a small private telephone service by charging for handling phone calls. In just a few years, she earned enough money in this way to send her two children to the university.

Over the years, Ericsson has also helped to build up critical societal structures in various trouble spots. Among other things, the UN has purchased communications systems to build up telecom systems in countries torn by war and crisis, such as Kosovo, Rwanda and East Timor.

Ericsson's global-spanning operations also entail that the company and its employees sometimes become involved in natural disaster relief missions. Such as after a major flood in Venezuela in 2000, where hundreds of thousands of people were affected. None of Ericsson's employees were among the dead, but the company took part with direct actions in the field. Among other things, more that 50 mobile phones were donated, radio links were established and company vehicles were sent out to help those in distress.

Author: Anders Edwardsson

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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