At the Mobile World Congress taking place this week in Barcelona, Ericsson and The Coca-Cola Company announced a pilot project to bring mobile connectivity to an EKOCENTER in Rwanda. The pilot will take place in collaboration with telecom operator Tigo Rwanda and German startup company, Solarkiosk. 

Coca-Cola is partnering with Solarkiosk to launch EKOCENTER -- a social enterprise initiative designed to empower community well-being by bringing safe water, solar power and mobile communications, as well as basic goods and services, to underserved communities -- in six countries in Africa and Asia in 2015. The modular kiosks are run by local women entrepreneurs and designed to act as a catalyst for community growth. 

“EKOCENTER is an innovative social enterprise that endeavors to help communities thrive by providing further access to resources. Engaging new partners to join this journey adds skills and expertise beyond our core enhancing the value for the people in these communities,” said Beatriz Perez, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Coca-Cola Company. “Connectivity has become a fundamental part of thriving communities and economies. We’re excited about the solutions Ericsson can deliver to EKOCENTER, solutions we believe will foster positive change.” 

Ericsson will initially deploy its Managed Rural Coverage (MRC) solution to provide Internet services to the EKOCENTER in rural Rwanda. The company’s TV Anywhere service will enable access to education and healthcare content as well as ‘info-tainment’ capabilities, enabling the kiosk to become a connected hub. Ericsson will also provide EKOCENTER with its M-Commerce solution that enables people to make transactions using their mobile wallets. Based on success of implementation, Ericsson will potentially incorporate its services at additional EKOCENTER sites.

EKOCENTERs serve as community centers where people gather and have access to free and fee-based services. The new connectivity services could include education, health care, mobile commerce, information and entertainment.

“Mobile broadband can address a wide range of issues that hinder development – from poverty to lack of electricity and safe water, to financial exclusion and gender inequality," said Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, vice president of sustainability and corporate responsibility at Ericsson. "Creating a community hub is a great way to empower women while making needed services available in a convenient way. The constellation of companies partnering to figure out commercially sustainable business models is very exciting and I think we will need to see much more of this type of innovation going forward to meaningfully address poverty and development in rural areas.”