”We can deliver internet connection where no one else can”
Danish BLUETOWN has developed a Wi-Fi solution that runs entirely on solar energy.
”Going online is huge!”
The words belong to Mogens Birk, VP for partnerships and alliances at BLUETOWN. Huge because more than 4 billion people worldwide still live without internet access. Huge because the internet connects local communities that would otherwise be isolated from the world. Huge because the internet is much more than social media and mindless entertainment: First and foremost, it is a tool for progress and growth, a platform with the potential to create a learning revolution in the poorest regions of the world.
The lack of connectivity already threatens to exacerbate existing socio-economic inequalities as large groups of people have poor access to information, social networks, markets, education, and public administration. Similarly, poor connectivity challenges the health systems: According to the World Bank, WHO and McKinsey Global Institute, around 80 percent of incorrect medication in Africa could potentially be avoided if more clinics had internet access and could seek advice.
Changing the statistics, however, requires new ways of thinking. This is exactly what BLUETOWN has done with the development of a solar-powered Wi-Fi hotspot and, subsequently, a local cloud that makes information accessible to local communities, tells Mogens Birk:
“Needless to say, traditional solutions with masts and cables cannot solve the task of bringing connectivity to the most remote areas. This is why we have developed a Wi-Fi hotspot running entirely on solar energy. It allows us to deliver cheap, wireless internet to a whole community within a radius of 1 kilometre.” The base station is run by a local operator who is in charge of daily maintenance as well as helping the community access online content. In addition, BLUETOWN has developed a local cloud that offers free educational videos and other relevant learning material. The learning element is of vital important, says Mogens Birk: ”With a local cloud, governments, private companies, and NGO’s can provide materials that are readily accessible for the communities. Just think of the potential! Farming techniques, public health, education, information – all of this can be elevated to a whole new level. This might very well turn out to be one of the strongest weapons in the fight against poverty.”
Participating in the SDG Accelerator for SMEs under the auspices of the UNDP has been an important step towards viewing internet connectivity as more than just data:
”Even though we are used to being innovative at BLUETOWN, it has been amazing to meet the experts from Deloitte and UNDP. Working so intensely with the Sustainable Development Goals has really opened our eyes to brand new possibilities in terms of improving the living standards in regions suffering from poverty,” says Mogens Birk.
Going forward, BLUETOWN is facing a comprehensive implementation based on a pilot project, which has just been completed in Ghana. This involves new, international partnerships as well as a due diligence process to ensure the commercial viability of the solar driven Wi-Fi hotspots and the local clouds.
”Somewhere along the road, we have to make a profit with this solution,” says Mogens Birk. ”In addition to the profit stemming from the sale of internet access, we expect great things from the clouds and the content they will represent. Today, many companies and organisations have no other choice than to communicate through radio and cars with loudspeakers on top. This we can really change.”
With the solutions in place, some of the 4 billion people still living without internet access can look forward to joining the world wide web.
”In five years, I expect us to run hotspots and clouds in at least 15 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” says Mogens Birk. ”First, we are targeting stable countries in which digitalisation is part of the national development plan. In the longer term, the goal is to reach an even wider audience. It is a long process, but we are determined to succeed.”
SDGs in play
- Target 9.C: Universal access to information and communications technology
- Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.
This is how BLUETOWN contributes to the SDGs
- BLUETOWN has developed a Wi-Fi hotspot running entirely on solar energy.
- In addition to internet access, the hotspot allows access to a local cloud. Here, authorities, private companies, and NGO’s can post free learning material to the communities.
- BLUETOWN was declared joint winner of the USAID WomenConnect Challenge, which provides finance for project that break down the digital gender divide.
- Founded in 2012
- Limited Liability Company
- 60 employees globally
- Presence in 7 markets
Read more about BLUETOWN here.