Nokia and Grameen Foundation USA make telecoms rural reality

Nokia and the Grameen Foundation USA (GFUSA) are to collaborate to bring "affordable, accessible telecommunications to rural villages in Africa through microfinance."

The collaboration will build on GFUSA's global Village Phone initiative that helps people living in rural areas start self-sustaining businesses while providing affordable telecommunications to their communities.

Access to these same affordable and reliable services is a lifeline for rural communities and a critical part of overall development. Although the costs of mobile phones and services have fallen significantly, the initial investment n eeded to get connected remains one of the most significant hurdles to expanding communication services in these areas. By providing the necessary cash, microfinance is proving a powerful tool in overcoming this barrier. What is more, with tiny loans, financial services and mobile technology, Village Phone provides affordable access in a sustainable manner.

Rural areas of Africa have been singled out by Nokia and GFUSA so as to make universal access a reality in quicker than normal time. As part of their effort, Nokia and GFUSA have jointly developed a solution based on Nokia's most affordable phones and an external antenna to serve rural communities in Uganda and Rwanda, the two countries where GFUSA's Village Phone currently operates.

"Last September, the important milestone of two billion mobile subscriptions was achieved. Rural connectivity will play a major role in reaching the next billion subscribers and ultimately connecting half the world. Nokia is p roud to collaborate with GFUSA on this significant initiative," said Antonio Torres, Director of Business Development & Industry Marketing for Nokia's Entry Business Unit.

David Keogh, Deputy Director of GFUSA's Grameen Technology Center is equally keen: "By leveraging micro finance - a proven poverty reduction strategy - and technology, GFUSA's Village Phone is playing an important role in alleviating poverty and connecting rural communities." GFUSA's Village Phone replicates the Village Phone program that was pioneered in Bangladesh by Grameen Bank. It was launched in Uganda in 2002 and recently piloted in Rwanda.

As a part of the cooperation, Nokia and GFUSA will conduct a study which will further examine the broader impact of mobile telecommunications on socio-economic development and individual business integration as well as evaluating microfinance as a sustainable tool to make telecommunications access more affordable.

* GFUSA was founded in 1997. It has established 52 partners in 22 countries, impacting on an estimated 5.5 million lives in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. The Grameen Technology Center initiative was founded in 2001 to harness the power of information and communication technology in the fight against global poverty.

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