Project Rubicon

Connecting the dots to grow Africa’s potential

Connecting the dots to grow Africa’s potential

Africa’ s youth hold the promise of lifting themselves and their communities out of penury and into powerhouses of ideas that solve local challenges and improve livelihoods.

In Africa, connectivity has great potential to provide economic and social benefits to low-income people. Coupled with the right online content, it can be used to support and deliver transformations in digital literacy, wellbeing and livelihoods.

As it stands however, there is a lack of both affordable access to the internet, appropriate and meaningful online media, specifically tailored to the needs of youth especially young women aged 15-24. It therefore goes without saying that interventions are required in order to make WiFi more inclusive, and time spent online more productive.

To intervene, Unilever in collaboration with Microsoft 4Afrika, Mawingu Networks and Well Told Story are joining hands to introduce affordable connectivity for low-income women and youth thus facilitating access to relevant content that will expose them to a web of solutions and consequently improve their livelihood

Project Rubicon which is part of Transform, (A five-year, £40M programme by Unilever aimed at supporting disruptive, market-based solutions that change behaviour and meet low-income household needs in Africa and Asia.) includes a plan to develop a Sustain Technology Platform with Microsoft. This platform will create relevant software solutions and allow partner organisations to securely share personal and business-sensitive data using Microsoft’s Azure Cloud technology. This will be a critical tool for collaboration and will facilitate swift and secure scaling. Microsoft’s Kaizala communications platform will also be used in the project to enable local networks to form and interact.

Mawingu, a local ISP currently has a female user base of only 35%. To reach more women, Mawingu aims to leverage on Unilever’s existing network of dukas, which are more accessible to women than the current Mawingu merchants. In addition, this WiFi service will also help these small shopkeepers, by opening up access to financial services, including affordable credit and integration into value chains and markets.

Since content on the internet is strongly skewed towards western and/or affluent consumers, Well Told Story- a content provider that creates social and economic value for young people in East Africa will play a key role in designing entertainment-led content that will appeal to and benefit low-income women and youth. This content will revolve around their health, wellbeing and employment. For instance, pregnant girls and young mothers will be able to access relevant Shujaaz content re-designed and re-presented online, and access networks to share their experiences with others in similar situations.

Focus on young women.

While Project Rubicon will ensure the Mawingu model is optimised to reach, engage and benefit an expanded user base of women in low income areas, it will significantly contribute to their full and effective participation and enable equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making- political, economic and public life. It will also ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights while improving women’s access to economic resources, property, financial services, and sanitation. Nonetheless, this program will directly enhance the use of technology to promote empowerment of women and enhance youth employability.

Project Rubicon is a clear example of how technology can play a significant role in improving livelihoods and the value of partnership in combining resources to deliver sustainable, scalable and impactful services thus creating shared value for all.

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