Titled Digital Frontiers, the initiative forms part of the UK Space Agency’s £32 million, two-year International Partnership Space Programme, in which Inmarsat, the leading provider of global mobile satellite communication services, is a central partner, working alongside a group of international organisations including Equity Bank Group and Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). Inmarsat was awarded funding for projects in key East and West African growth hubs, where for many, basic digital services such as a resilient data communication infrastructure or local mapping, are not available due to a blend of economic and geographic factors.
The initial projects, in Nigeria and Kenya, will see Inmarsat deploy its most advanced L-band communications satellite, Alphasat, to deliver data connectivity solutions to these sub-Saharan communities. The rationale is to demonstrate how companies can provide social or economic benefit to areas that do not currently have communication capabilities as well as evolve business models which mean more of these projects can be sustained from a commercial perspective.
Working in partnership with the Equity Bank Group, Inmarsat has provided connectivity to enable financial services, welfare and other content access to more than 200 locations in Kenya. Each site has a BGAN internet connectivity terminal which is pre-loaded with a range of educational materials and apps covering agriculture and business among other topics.
In Nigeria, Inmarsat is partnering with MAMA to deliver maternal and child health services to 50 remote, rural communities. Called The MAMA Connect Project, the onsite system is pre-loaded with a MAMA’s evidence-based, culturally-sensitive health information. The satellite network updates the content and provides real-time connectivity for pregnant and new mothers to interact online.
Dr Adetokunbo Oshin, Deputy Project Director of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) Maternal and Child Health Project in Nigeria said: “Two factors often drive the unacceptably high rate of maternal and neonatal deaths in Nigeria. One is a lack of skilled birth attendants and the other is the lack of timely health information for pregnant women. By providing access to high quality information for pregnant women, their caregivers and community gatekeepers, the MAMA Connect Project is uniquely positioned to complement the efforts of SURE-P MCH Project in addressing these two factors, especially in Nigeria’s rural and underserved communities, where mortality is highest. This MAMA Connect Project could not have come at a better time.”
In tandem with the Kenya and Nigeria projects, Inmarsat is also working alongside a range of partners to examine the business model affordability of providing connectivity to remote locations. The idea is to identify relevant cultural and social dynamics which can help foster and sustain future connectivity programmes. The results will be funnelled into further pilot projects in Brazil, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “Satellite remains the only viable means of providing universal internet access beyond the reach of terrestrial communications in emerging markets, particularly in Africa. This initiative has the potential to significantly transform areas which have previously been denied resilient internet connectivity due to the cost and logistical difficulties in extending terrestrial networks into remote communities. We are very pleased to have completed the installation phase with all BGANs now in place; people and communities are set to benefit from transformed communication capabilities.
“We are also looking at the wider benefits for other regions as part of this project. The commercial viability of using satellite connectivity to ensure services can successfully penetrate the most remote areas of emerging markets is important. For future sustainability, these projects will provide vital information on how innovative use of satellite connectivity can deliver affordable and repeatable services to these communities.”
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