Ericsson is to contribute to the UN Millennium Villages project. The UN project aims to bring mobile communication to nearly half a million people in some of the world’s poorest countries.

UN Millennium Villages will connect 79 villages in 10 African countries by cellular network, providing internet access to around 400,000 people.

The Millennium Villages project was started in 2004 as a collaboration between the Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University and the UN. It aims to tackle hunger, disease and lack of medical care, and to improve education and business in a range of hotspots. It has already spread to nearly 80 villages in countries such as Uganda, Senegal and Mali.

Children’s IT skills should also benefit from Ericsson's involvement in the UN Millennium Villages project, enabling them to access more information via the internet. The state of healthcare in particular could be enhanced by the mobile infrastructure as it would be possible for emergency numbers to be used.

A study carried out by the London Business School looked at 92 rich and poor countries, between 1980 and 20003 found a rise of 10 mobile phones per 100 people could increase the GDP by 0.6 percent in developing countries.

The service will be run and charged for by local operators but Ericsson will provide the infrastructure and the solar chargers for phones for free. The majority of the countries will have a 2G network installed by Ericsson for voice calls. This will also allow information to be downloaded at 200 kilobits per second, which is adequate for broadband use.

Although Ericsson says voice will be the main focus rather than mobile internet and data services it hopes to later install 3G networks in these countries where regulations and spectrum permit.