BT, SOS launch Connecting Africa project

BT is working with SOS Children's Villages, an international charity that focuses on children at risk, to connect twenty of the charity's sites in twelve African countries via its global satellite network. BT and SOS Children's Villages estimate that the project could directly and indirectly benefit approximately 700,000 people.

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.

BT designs and builds the network infrastructure using underutilized or decommissioned BT equipment in each country. At the same time, BT engineers train the charity's local IT support teams to maintain and operate the infrastructure, ensuring the project is sustainable in the long term. BT will provide connectivity for the Children's Villages for three years via its global satellite network, run from its operational center in Madley in the UK.

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 through e-learning courses and mentoring programs developed by the charity. It will also bring significant benefits to SOS Children's Villages as an organization, helping the charity run its operations more efficiently and better co-ordinate the facilities it operates in the communities, which include schools, medical centers and community programs.

Meryl Davies from SOS Children's Villages said: "We see the real difference that IT and connectivity make to our children's lives, opening their eyes to a whole new world of information, and wonderful education opportunities. The other significant value of this partnership is the way that BT is helping us as an organization. BT has the vision to understand that with improved systems and structures, we will be better able to bring long term value to incredibly vulnerable children and families."

Speaking at the official launch of the program during the World Economic Forum on Africa conference in Cape Town, Kevin Taylor , President BT Asia, Middle East and Africa, said: "We believe that communication is an incredibly powerful tool and can transform the lives of many people. We've seen the real impact that broadband internet can have through our projects around the world. This latest initiative builds on our know-how and on our long standing commitments to communities in Africa and elsewhere where through technology we help children and whole communities reach for a better future. This project is enthusiastically supported by BT employees around the world, who will engage through volunteering and fundraising activities."

Connecting Africa will directly benefit at least 5,000 people in each community, with many more benefiting indirectly. By developing the technology and skills within the Villages, and by running adult education programs in the wider community, the project will help extend the benefits of internet access to the children, their families and wider communities.

The project will help boost the charity's fundraising work by allowing photos and videos to be shared with the people who have chosen to sponsor children in the Children's Villages. It will also be instrumental in raising awareness for emergency relief work, such as the charity's current relief organized around the crisis in Mali, to help secure support from the international community of donors.

BT will mobilize its global workforce and skills base to support this project through a range of volunteering activities. This will build on the BT's extensive and long term support of the charity's work in Germany, where BT employees have volunteered 136 days during 2012 in helping young adults develop computer skills.

The Connecting Africa project is part of BT's Better Future program, which is a commitment to use the power of communications to improve lives and ways of doing business. It is one of a number of projects that BT is running around the world to help people get online and develop the skills and confidence to use the internet.

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