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WPDI and Ericsson strengthen their collaboration to support vulnerable communities in South Sudan and Uganda

Building on the work conducted together for more than five years, we have recently strengthened our partnership with Ericsson in South Sudan and Uganda to benefit remote communities in vulnerable places. This renewed effort will enhance access to ICTs in communities from Western Equatoria in South Sudan, the Acholi sub-region of Uganda and the Kiryandongo refugee settlement in Uganda.

ICTs are central in our projects because we seek to bring transformative change by connecting communities and people. In the vision of our Founder/CEO, Forest Whitaker, connectivity means that people and communities have the skills, the capacity and the will to interact and dialogue respecting each other. Connectivity and networking are both about the hardware of technology and the software of attitudes. Technology opens doors to new worlds of knowledge and opportunities to exchange with people a continent or a block away. But in communities impacted by violence and poverty, people in remote communities often have no or insufficient access to the knowledge resources they need to lift themselves out of these vicious cycles. It is our belief that lasting peace and sustainable development require that people have the means to communicate effectively and to bridge physical and cultural distances. This is especially true in Africa where the possession of mobile technology has been followed by an array of innovative practices in mobile banking or farming data.

Helping people innovate and create the conditions of their success is the strategic motive behind our partnership with Ericsson, with whom we have worked together since the very beginning of WPDI in vulnerable communities of South Sudan and Uganda. Our main objective is to harness the power of youth as peacemakers and entrepreneurs who can make a difference back home. To concretize this objective, we train young people in ICTs and equip them with mobile technology – all through the assistance of Ericsson who has been providing devices and trainings as well.

This assistance from Ericsson is critical for our program because we want our youth to keep learning and to communicate with us and among each other as they go back to their communities where they develop local educational and business projects. Online social networks and smart phones allow our youths to reach out to each other, to form friendships and connections, and to brainstorm their responses to crises in real time. In South Sudan, these mobile devices have become lifesavers because of the ongoing civil conflict.

In the short-term, ICTs can be a crucial component in responding to crises and managing disasters, but they can play an equally important role in long-term peacebuilding as well.

Another key aspect of the collaboration with Ericsson focuses on the equipment of our Community Learning Centers (CLCs). They are places where community members can access the Internet and computers as well as trainings in ICTs, entrepreneurship or literacy. So far, we have established a dozen of those centers in Uganda and South Sudan. An obvious measure of success is that all those centers all quickly become community hubs with an average of 200 monthly users per center.

Both WPDI and Ericsson want to prolong these successes. Hence our reinforced collaboration, under which Ericsson has graciously pledged to equip our youth peacemakers and their communities in South Sudan and Uganda with more than 400 devices. In Uganda, Ericsson is supporting the extension of our program to the Acholi sub-region as well as the launch of our new Community Learning Center at the Kiryandongo refugee settlement and a new cohort of 46 peacemakers from the settlement and host communities of Kiryandongo. In South Sudan, Ericsson is equipping four new Community Learning Centers we recently opened in the States of Ikwoto, Budi, Lopa and Lafon in Eastern Equatoria and is supporting the extension of our program in Western Equatoria, with a new cohort of 20 peacemakers and the launch last month of a Community Learning Center in Yambio.

Each piece of this equipment is a stepping-stone towards lasting peace and sustainable development in the concerned communities. We at WPDI are very gratified to contribute to such a process and very proud that Ericsson has always been and will be an active supporter of our work.

As technological innovations expand the frontiers of what is possible, we must continue searching for ways to put this new potential in the service of the global peacebuilding agenda. WPDI and Ericsson are continuing to work at the forefront of these efforts with youths in conflict-impacted areas around the world.