BLUETOWN is an Internet and digital content service provider with a vision of making modern connectivity solutions accessible and affordable for everyone. We have developed a solar-powered connectivity solution designed for connecting rural and remote areas. Moreover, we engage in innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships with governments, NGOs and other private companies to bridge non-access barriers to internet adoption and enable sustainable business models. Our model has been tested in rural communities in Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and across 4 Indian states connecting more than 1 million people.
BLUETOWN REACH is an affordable all-in-one solution that provides reliable internet coverage in almost any location globally. The core of the solution is a base station that establishes a Wi-Fi hotspot large enough to cover a village. The solution is designed to operate under harsh environmental conditions, runs 24/7 on solar power, battery backup and satellite internet backhaul, which means the solution is ideal for remote areas without any existing infrastructure. BLUETOWN REACH comes with an IKEA standard manual for full deployment which can be done without the use of power tools. As the system costs less than 1/10 of traditional telecommunications equipment, internet access can be made affordable for Bottom of the Pyramid segments anywhere in the world.
BLUETOWN LOCAL CLOUD
Despite the availability of affordable internet connectivity, affording frequent consumption of data-heavy content can still be a challenge for low-income users. This is problematic because the most impactful digital content and services often comes as video and/or interactive content and consequently data heavy. To address this divide, BLUETOWN has developed the LOCAL CLOUD.
Fully integrated in to the BLUETOWN REACH, the LOCAL CLOUD provides direct access tocurated digital content and services at no data cost to the end-users. The system works by letting digital content providers upload content to a central server, from where the content is distributed to local servers in the target locations. End-users access the local servers by accessing the Wi-Fi internet hotspots in their communities and consume the content they wish data free.
End-users benefit from a) easy access to information and knowledge within health, learning, agriculture, entertainment and local news, enabling, among other things, local farmers to watch training videos on how to optimise their yields, b) no data cost for consuming the content, c) content that is always available at high-speed even if the internet connection is interrupted or has capacity issues.
For content partners, the LOCAL CLOUD removes barriers to reach rural populations in a quick and easy way, lower the transactions cost of activating content, reduce necessity of physical presence in remote areas to broadcast campaigns, and provides intelligent content distribution to target groups with data statistics and analytics. The content providers pay to make their content available, which often replace costly field trainings and information campaigns in rural and remote areas. This, together with paid commercial content, contributes to lowering the price on Internet access.
Being aware that access and affordability are not the only barriers that keep half the global population offline, BLUETOWN has developed a micro-operator concept to build local capacity. BLUETOWN hires young tech-savvy individuals who are trained in both marketing, sales, IT and in building capacity among inexperienced internet users. We prioritize to have both male and female micro-operators as we have found that this is imperative for gender-equality of internet uptake. Results of this programme has been astonished and survey results from Tanzania showed that 71% of new internet users reported to have benefitted from the MO in terms of learning how to use the internet. Individuals with less formal education were statistically more likely to report MO-interaction, which indicate importance of the MO in terms of stimulating user uptake among demographics with higher barriers to adoption.
Moreover, BLUETOWN engage in innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships with both public, private and civil society organizations who are presence in the communities we connect, to make sure that the connectivity provided is being utilized for maximum local impact.
In Ghana, BLUETOWN is working with global NGO CARE, who has an extensive network and experience in working with extensive services and rural capacity building. By digitalizing their work, they can increase local relevance of internet adoption and build IT-literacy through existing activities. Given that underserved communities often consist of farmers and individuals with low IT-literacy, such partnerships can be a key driver of creating high adoption rates also among Bottom of the Pyramid segments.
BLUETOWN recently won the USAID WomenConnect Challenge together with Mozambican rural investment bank Gapi. The proposed project will boost women’s internet adoption through integrating connectivity services in to Gapis existing network of activities in rural Mozambique. Experiences from this project can be transferred to all other BLUETOWN projects to drive adoption among women, who globally lack behind in terms of internet adoption.
The combination of described elements comprises the BLUETOWN solution to connecting the unconnected. We’ve already connected more than a million people, but are aiming to multiply that at least 50 times in the coming years.