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Laureate 2011
Statement by CEO of Inveneo Kristin Peterson

Thank you, Secretary-General Touré. And thank you ITU delegates for making this year’s ceremony pay special focus to the needs of rural communities.

Roughly 3.5 billion people around the world live in rural areas. More than 2 billion of them lack reliable access to information and communications technology. And yet, these are the very people and communities who ICTs could benefit most.

We founded Inveneo based on the fundamental belief that access to ICT has the power to change lives through better education, improved healthcare, access to economic opportunity and faster relief.

In fact, the World Bank estimates that every 10% increase in broadband penetration can yield an increase of as much as 1.4% in GDP growth.

But, delivering technology to these communities, as you can imagine, is challenging! Lack of power and abundance of heat, dust and humidity are the first challenges. Sometimes even lizards, goats or monkeys get in the way. Other critical issues are lack of skills to deploy and support ICTs and business models that may work in dense urban areas don’t scale to rural regions.

At Inveneo we have made it our mission to find the right technologies that can help organizations in these communities  - schools, clinics, relief camps -- successfully use ICTs – to deliver better vital services Along the way, we quickly realized that technology - even through we are technologists - was not enough. So we’ve been building an eco-system of certified in-country ICT entrepreneurs that we partner with around the world. Together, with these partners, we are implementing projects that range from solar-powered computer labs going in to hundreds of schools in Uganda and Tanzania, to building a rural broadband network in rural Haiti.

Also, we have been working with the ITU’s capacity building inititiaves, by sharing our knowledge through ITU sponsored trainings Uganda and Kenya.

But what is most important, is what is happening in these communities. I’d like to share a few stories which come from our recent work in Haiti:

Immediately after the Haiti earthquake, our team helped build a broadband network in Port-au-Prince for many of the humanitarian agencies. As this effort ended, we started to focus on delivering ICTs to rural communities through improved access to the Internet and training of local entrepreneurs to deliver a broadband network and sustainable ICTs in 6 regions.

In our first rural location, Leogane, the epicentre of the earthquake, we identified a strong demand from schools, healthcare facilities and NGOs. You will see a short video about our work there in just a moment.

In Léogâne, we started our work with ICT entrepreneur Jerry Joseph. Prior to the earthquake, Jerry had studied at a prestigious technology institute in the Dominican Republic. But with…
  • more than 80% of the population living below the poverty line,
  •  an unemployment rate of more than 40%, and
  •  a per capita income of less than $400 USD per year,
…technology careers in Haiti were hard to come by.

Like many educated youth, Jerry was forced to work odd jobs to support himself and his family. And like so many Haitians, Jerry was left homeless after the earthquake.

Jerry gained practical skills by working with Inveneo to deploy long-distance WiFi to hospitals and NGOs in and around Léogâne, and graduated from our certified IT technician program.

In just 4 months, Jerry has his own business and is working with a local Haitian ISP, MultiLink, to deliver broadband, computing and support to many organizations in Leogane. He is earning strong income, can afford to send his daughter to school, and is very proud to help his own community build back better.

Fabiola, a 12th grader in a Léogâne high school is another person whose life is being impacted. Our roll-out to rural Haiti involves installing 40 solar powered computer labs in rural schools  and connecting them to the internet. The moment we got Fabiola’s school connected, she dove onto the computer and immediately began researching the human reproductive system. When we asked her what she was doing, she told us:

“Ever since I was young, I dreamed of becoming a doctor. This lab will help me with my research… I really hope this is not only a dream, but that I can make it happen in real life.”

In a rural community with no access to quality education or even books, technology becomes the gateway to information and opportunity.

These are just some of the many stories of people we have impacted through technology access.

Over the past 7 years, Inveneo has certified nearly 100 local partners in 25 countries. Together, we’ve served more than 1.7 million people in more than 700 communities throughout Haiti, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. But much, much more can be done. Over the next few years, we want train 100s of Jerry Josephs, who will become the engine for delivering rural ICTs so we can reach millions more. We hope you will join us!

On behalf of my co-founders, the Inveneo team and our in-country partners it is truly an honour to accept this award. Thank you.



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Updated : 2011-05-17