The Corporate Partnership Bringing Education And Technology To Rural Ghana

Many girls in rural Africa lack access to education due to factors like gender inequality and familial poverty. But for the past 10 years, a social entrepreneur and former educator in Ghana has been working to change that.

After observing the difficulty many young girls have while trying to access education and stay in school – as well as the lack of innovation in the educational system – social entrepreneur and Ghana native Kafui Prebbie believed he could improve education through technology – so he did.

Prebbie founded TECHAide, a technology company working to digitally deliver educational content to those typically unable to access education in Ghana.

TECHAide provides affordable hotspots, servers, mobile devices, interactive educational software and community computer labs to deliver educational lessons, videos and other content that can be leveraged in rural communities that traditionally lack these resources.

Recently, Prebbie launched the company’s newest product – ASANKA – a mobile hotspot and content delivery system named with a dual meaning: Community Bowl, a Ghanaian reference, and an acronym for All Subjects and New Knowledge Access.

Founded 10 years ago, Prebbie shares the company has reached more than 100,000 students in Ghana. And while TECHAide’s reach validates need, Prebbie wanted to take his technology to a new level – leveraging personal mobile devices to bring education to even more young students across Ghana, a goal that required the help of a strong corporate partner.


USDA Announces $150 Million Investment Fund for Rural Businesses

investment fund for rural businesses0

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a $150 million fund the agency will use to invest in small rural businesses. The fund establishes a new Rural Business Investment Program with a new wrinkle for investment in rural ag-related companies.

The new investment fund was announced as part of the Obama administration’s “Made in Rural America” initiative. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the money will go to “innovative” rural small businesses with an emphasis on those with job creating potential.

Vilsack told ABC News examples of such businesses might include small biotechnology firms, businesses creating ag-related products for export and regional food hubs. (So this isn’t necessarily money going to investment in small family farms here.)

Small agricultural businesses can already access funds through loans and loan guarantees from the USDA. But the agency says the  new fund will allow “cutting-edge” businesses to access equity investment funds, too.

In a statement announcing the fund, Vilsack said:

“One of USDA’s top priorities is to help reenergize the rural economy, and we now have a powerful new tool available to help achieve that goal. This new partnership will allow us to facilitate private investment in businesses working in bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields.”

The money will be managed by a private firm, Advantage Capital Partners, and will come from eight designated Farm Credit banks. These banks are part of the national Farm Credit System, a federally sponsored group of lenders to farmers and other ag-related businesses.

The money will be invested by the newly created privately owned USDA licensed Rural Business Investment Company.

Some critics are understandably skeptical of the “Made in Rural America” initiative. They say it promotes export of food items that the U.S. already imports in large quantity. Critics argue the initiative has also not really benefited small farmers, ag-related businesses or the consumer.

Journalist Brett Barth reports at The Cornucopia Institute blog:

“The prime beneficiaries of global trade aren’t farmers but corporate middlemen, the distributors, transporters, and traders who take a combined profit of over 90 percent of every food dollar. With such a large combined profit at stake, trade-for-the-sake-of-trade has become an economic engine that drives worldwide agribusiness to needless and illogical ends.”

Image: Wikipedia


Eir responds to Government concerns over rural broadband

Eir is targeting 300,000 of the homes originally pencilled in for the National Broadband Plan with a fibre rollout of its own. Photograph:   MaxwellsEir is targeting 300,000 of the homes originally pencilled in for the National Broadband Plan with a fibre rollout of its own. Photograph: Maxwells

Eir has responded to a Government statement concerning uncertainty over 300,000 houses that could be removed from a €1.5 billion State-subsidised rural broadband scheme by insisting it has provided information requested of it so far by officials.

The 300,000 homes have become the subject of a tug-of-war between Eir and the State’s National Broadband Plan in recent months. This has resulted in claims and counter-claims in recent months from the Department of Communications and NBP frontrunner Eir.

In a statement last night about the 300,000 homes, the department also confirmed it has received five expressions of interest in the NBP. Bidders likely include Eir, ESB and Vodafone’s Siro and E-Net.

The original NBP scheme was supposed to see the State contribute towards the provision of high-speed fibre broadband for 750,000 rural homes not properly served by commercial suppliers. The Government has already launched the process to pick suppliers for the two contracts on offer.


Eir then announced it was targeting 300,000 of the homes originally pencilled in for NBP with a fibre rollout of its own. It said it has already started work on the first 100,000.

This created potential difficulties for NBP because, under EU state-aid guidelines, subsidies cannot be directed towards providing broadband in areas that a private sector supplier is also targeting. In effect, Eir’s announcement on the 300,000 homes raised the prospect that the NBP plan would have to be shrunk, making it less attractive to Eir’s rival bidders for the contracts.

The department insisted last night that the original plan for 750,000 remained in place unless an operator meets “all of the relevant criteria and signed a commitment agreement” to take on some of them outside NBP. It said to date no company had done this.

In response Eir said last night: “The department requested and last week received details of the first phase of 100,000 homes and businesses that is part of our rural 300,000 rollout. They are currently examining that submission.”