Mobile firm aims to be catalyst on poverty goalsDecember 2008
Ericsson has pledged to play a leading role in raising awareness of the millennium development goals (MDGs) in the worldwide telecommunications industry.
The Swedish mobile phone company will attempt to ‘catalyze’ the telecoms sector into using its technology and expertise to help find ‘tangible’ ways to halve global extreme poverty, one of eight MDGs set by the United Nations.
Ericsson, which operates in 170 countries, argues that mobile phones, wireless internet and other technologies can, among other things, improve access to healthcare and stimulate entrepreneurship in impoverished rural areas that would otherwise be isolated from the rest of the world.
At present there are more than 3.7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. However, that figure is expected to almost double within five years, and Ericsson believes 90 per cent of the expansion will be from ‘high-growth economies where rural communities have little established infrastructure’.
The company has engaged Mary Robinson, former president of the Irish Republic and ex-UN high commissioner for human rights, to help it spread the message and form relevant partnerships.
Another consultant will be Jeffrey Sachs, director of the US-based Earth Institute and special adviser to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
Ericsson has already worked with the Earth Institute, the sustainable development research unit of Colombia University in New York, to bring voice and internet facilities to 500,000 people in so-called ‘millennium villages’ in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, it has established a ‘mobile innovation centre’ in Africa to study how mobiles can be used in health, education, agriculture and business development.
Supporters of the role of mobiles in alleviating poverty claim that cheap models can be used in various ways, such as helping farmers make deals and check on prices.
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