Improving lives - wirelessly
Qualcomm's Wireless Reach initiative brings the benefits of wireless connectivity to more than 73 development projects across the globe.
Formally established in 2006, Wireless Reach began with the objective of "using 3G to strengthen economic and social development in under-served communities", says Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm CEO. Since then, it has expanded into 31 countries, with projects that aim to use 3G to foster entrepreneurship, bolster education, enhance healthcare delivery and improve environmental sustainability.
The Internet and its resources have become a vital pathway for enhancing economic empowerment, says the company, and in rural areas - where landline connectivity is limited or non-existent - 3G represents a primary method of delivering voice and data access.
According to Qualcomm, more than 75% of broadband connections in 2015 will be mobile. The information and communications technology made possible by these broadband connections will have immense power to meet education, environmental and healthcare goals, as well as to empower individual citizens.
Mobile penetration is strongly linked to development, according to the World Bank. In developing countries, a 10% increase in mobile penetration brings about a 0.8% increase in per-capita GDP, while a 10% increase in Internet penetration increases per capita GDP by 1.4%. Wireless Reach projects aim to equip entrepreneurs with wireless access, and provide them with new business opportunities, in order to stimulate economies.
Wireless Reach projects collaborate with various institutions - including government, development agencies, private sector companies and non-governmental organisations - in order to create sustainable projects.
The initiative's entrepreneurship programmes range from equipping Internet caf'e owners in Tanzania with wireless Internet connectivity and microloan-financed premises in converted shipping containers, to enabling mobile micro-financing initiatives in Indonesia, training entrepreneurs to re-sell airtime to neighbours.
The impact of mobility on education, especially in the developing world, also has huge potential. According to education research organisation Project Tomorrow, 74% of education leaders feel mobile devices will increase student engagement. Wireless Reach's education initiatives aim to equip students with affordable 3G-enabled mobile devices, allow students to access digital content, and extend education beyond the classroom. In Nepal and Vietnam, wireless Internet access in schools, alongside an intensive computer science curriculum created by non-profit Room to Read, have improved students' access to information technology and boosted computer literacy and programming skills among both the students and teachers.
Further projects aim to reduce health-monitoring costs, promote public health and enhance food sustainability.
Wireless Reach, according to Jacobs, forms part of the company's overall ethos. "We believe building strong shareholder value requires more than making a profit - it requires making a significant commitment to our global community."