Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) today announced the provision of the first Ericsson deliverables to the Millennium Village of Mayange, Rwanda.
Ericsson, together with pan-African telecom operator MTN, has kick-started its commitment with The Earth Institute at Columbia University to bring connectivity and telecom services to the Millennium Villages. The first village to receive these services is Mayange, Rwanda. In this initial stage, it is now receiving support in healthcare, education and small-business development to empower social and economic growth in the community. Additional services will be provided over the coming year.

The milestone follows the recent announcement of Ericsson's partnership with The Earth Institute to provide connectivity to the Millennium Villages project. The initiative - to bring mobile communication and internet access to rural areas in Africa - will reach about 400,000 people living in extreme poverty in 10 African countries.

Jan Embro, President of Ericsson in sub-Saharan Africa, says: "The integration of information and communications technology plays a critical role in ending the cycle of poverty, helping people share information and giving them the tools to improve their own social and economic situations."

The upgrade of MTN's GSM network to EDGE will enable mobile broadband connectivity and equip community health workers with tools to allow them to better serve their communities and help save lives.

One initiative to improve health services is a new toll-free phone service that can be used in medical emergencies to connect patients with on-duty medical personnel. Other initiatives include a mobile learning tool to train community health workers and applications to collect and share basic household health information.

Sony Ericsson has also provided mobile phones to the Millennium Village health clinics and community health workers. Together with Ericsson, it has developed and will provide a new Solar Village Charger capable of recharging at least 30 mobile-phone batteries per day and eight phones simultaneously for each village cluster.

To support economic development, Ericsson has focused on identifying and developing telecom services and applications customized to meet the needs of poor, rural communities. As part of this program, small-business entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to sell shared voice and data services to villagers, thanks to a partnership with the GSM Association's Development Fund.

Themba Khumalo, CEO of MTN Rwanda, says: "Access to mobile telephony can have vast economic and social impacts for people living in developing countries. The creation of local, sustainable businesses provides a platform for stable economic growth that can greatly help reduce poverty."

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