KIGALI, Rwanda — The Coca-Cola Company initiated an expansion of internet connectivity to rural communities in Africa.
Rwanda’s rural communities are scheduled to receive internet capabilities from Ericsson’s Ekocenter, which is a kiosk designed to direct attention to social enterprises while supporting business and community needs.
Rwanda has come a long way since 1994 regarding social welfare. The country has progressed with exceptional economic growth and construction methods thanks to foreign aid and socio-economic reformation.
Since 2006, Rwanda’s poverty rate has dropped from 56.7 percent to 44.9 percent in 2011. About 48.7 percent of those who live in poverty live remotely. Of those in extreme poverty, 26.4 percent are located in rural communities.
On a global scale, there are 800 million people without access to water and 2.5 billion lacking sanitation. Over 4 billion do not have internet access and 1.6 billion live without electricity.
The Managed Rural Coverage (MRC) project starts in Rwanda where an Ekocenter will connect rural communities with internet services. Ericsson’s TV Anywhere service connects Rwanda with education and healthcare content.
The company further enables people with M-Commerce solutions so as to allow for mobile transactions.
Ekocenter is a kiosk in which The Coca-Cola Company, Ericsson, and SolarKiosk collaborate to reach those in small communities who lack electricity and connectivity.
This structure was originally implemented by SolarKiosk for underserved communities. It is a unit powered by photovoltaic panels on its roof that will store enough energy to power mobile phones, lights, a computer, and a solar fridge for 24 hours a day.
The kiosk brings safe drinking water, solar power, and mobile communications to those in rural communities. Over 150 Ekocenters are located in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They have managed to provide 500 million liters of safe drinking water to 500,000 people each year and created 600 jobs.
The first SolarKiosk opened in Ethiopia back in 2012 near Lake Langano. It was designed as a light-weight, portable solar shop by Graft architects in Germany. It was delivered in pieces and safely assembled on site using local supplies. It can even be moved on the back of donkeys.
The model can also be expanded to create a series of kiosks which business owners can take advantage of the power supply. Some examples of possible operations include a movie theatre, hair salon, restaurant, motor vehicle workshop, and more.
Locals can buy solar lanterns, mobile phones, recharge cards, and refreshments. With the use of a refrigerator in a community that does not have one, it can house emergency medicines. Using the energy stored in a battery pack, the kiosk maintains regular operations throughout the night and keeps products cool.
It works to empower communities through building skill sets for women entrepreneurs who manage the stations. The unit provides training and jobs for multiple community members as well.
Workers will gain a valuable experience as they learn to operate solar products, maintain them, and how to support a daily business. The kiosk itself regulates internal temperatures during the day to provide a more comfortable work environment.
The MRC connects stations to the internet and, therefore, to educational services, health services, mobile commerce, basic information, and entertainment.
The project by the Coca-Cola Company, Ericsson, SolarKiosk, Tigo Ghana, and Tigo Rwanda are implementing this new connectivity project in African and Asia during 2015 throughout six countries.
The Coca-Cola Company’s future goals for the Ekocenter include the community’s accessibility to basic necessities, vaccines, sanitation, mobile charging stations, entertainment, solar powered products, and hygiene education. A few targets are in reach.
– Katie Groe