25 November 2005

Africa: Nokia, Grameen Collaborate for African Villages

Geneva — Mobile telecommunication giant, Nokia, and United States-based Grameen Foundation have announced collaboration at the just ended second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-05) in Tunisia for empowering rural African villages.

Michelle Tennant of Grameen, informed that the partnership would bring about affordable, accessible telecommunications to rural villages on the continent through micro-financing, built on the GF's global village phone initiative which helps rural people to start self-sustaining businesses.

"Access to affordable and reliable telecommunications services are life line for rural communities and a critical part of overall development," Tennant, who is media contact for foundation said.

Pointing out though that the costs of mobile phones and services have fallen significantly, the initial investment needed to get connected remains one of the most valuable huddles to expanding communication services in these areas.

"By providing the necessary cash, micro-finance has proven to be a powerful tool in overcoming this barrier. With tiny loans, financial services and mobile technology, village phone provides affordable access in a sustainable manner," Tennant explained.

According to the GF official, the collaboration between the two was designed to accelerate efforts to make universal access, particularly in rural areas of Africa a reality. Stressing that as part of this effort, Nokia and GFUSA jointly developed a solution based on Nokia's most affordable phones and an external antenna to serve rural communities in Uganda and Rwanda.

Tennant also quoted the Director, Business Development and Industry Marketing at Nokia's Entry Business Unit, Mr. Antonio Torres as saying that a mile stone was achieved last September with the achievement of two billion mobile subscriptions in some rural areas.

"Rural connectivity will play a major role in reaching the next billion subscribers and ultimately connecting half the world. Nokia is proud to collaborate with GFUSA on this significant initiative," Torres said.

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