BT in bid to build online AfricaJune 2013
British telecoms giant BT is working with international charity SOS Children’s Villages on its latest CSR programme, Connecting Africa, which will connect 20 of the charity’s sites in 12 African countries via its global satellite network. BT and SOS Children’s Villages estimate that the project could directly and indirectly benefit around 700,000 people.
Anna Easton, BT’s Connected Society programme director, told Ethical Performance that digital inclusion was fundamental to the telecoms group’s strategy.
Connecting Africa has a small project team built on a peripatetic model. One BT engineer trains 6 SOS Children’s Villages engineers, who then go out to train others.
BT designs and builds the network infrastructure using underutilised or decommissioned BT equipment in each country. For example, using BT Home Hub 3s as BT Home Hub 4 is now the new offering.
The first two SOS Children’s Villages in The Gambia have already been brought online and the remaining Children’s Villages are scheduled to be connected by October 2013. Connecting Africa is built on the model of connectivity that BT set up in Germany, again in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages. Easton hopes that the initiative will go global for BT (which operates in 170 markets). The charity itself operates in 120 markets, so the potential is definitely there, maintains Easton.
The Connecting Africa project will bring numerous benefits to the children living in the Children’s Villages, enabling them to get online and helping with their education. It will also bring benefits to SOS Children’s Villages as an organisation, helping the charity run its operations more efficiently.
Easton says that BT is very focused on measuring the social impact of the programme. While it is currently measuring impact via direct feedback and output data (such as the number of children online and the number of children who have improved in their school grades), BT is also developing a Socially Responsible Investment measurement tool – a ‘holy grail’ says Easton - that should be ready during the current financial year. BT will be opening it up to other companies to use too.
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