Information and communications technology, known as ICT, is a remarkable tool in the work to end global poverty. By providing communications and particularly communications infrastructure to areas with critical lack in those areas, companies and organizations are able to empower individuals and communities to share access to much needed information that can improve health outcomes or even access to education. Vodafone, the world's largest mobile telecommunications company (it owns 45% of Verizon) is now partnering with the United Nations to bring ICT to the developing world in Brazil, a partnership that might dramatically improve health outcomes for rural Brazilians. Read on to learn how Vodafone's deployment of ICT both works to improve health outcomes and can function to benefit the company's bottom line long-term.
Announced at this week's Mobile World Congress, the new initiative will assess potential ways of connecting indigenous communities in remote areas of Brazil with health information, such as vaccination scheduling and maternal health guidelines. The effort is a public-private partnership between the U.N., Vodafone, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Brazilian government, and the mHealth Alliance.
"In many of the world's most remote regions, mobile networks are now connecting communities to information and services at an unprecedented level, providing opportunities to deliver health benefits to traditionally underserved populations," said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. "This collaboration with the Vodafone Foundation, PAHO and the Brazilian Ministry of Health will focus on one community to determine how wireless communications can be used to improve health outcomes in some of Brazil's hardest to reach communities."
For Vodafone, the partnership is likely to offer more than just a corporate social responsibility (CSR) boost--untapped communities represent potential new customers and research in the name of CSR can often double as consumer research for an emerging market. Fast Company previously interviewed Mobile Metrix founder Melanie Edwards, who is placing mobile phones in the hands of low-income Brazilian youth to collect consumer research data, which simultaneously provides the youth with employment.
But the potential health benefits are significant, and innovations in mobile technology have been piloted extensively in other parts of the world as potential solutions to health information gaps.
Cause Integration Perspective:
This cause integration is complex in that multiple stakeholders are engaged. Vodafone, the United Nations, the Brazilian government, organization mHealth alliance and NGO the Pan-American Health Organization all contributed resources and expertise for the program's functioning. A cause integration such as this goes beyond mere cause lip service or even customer engagement, and instead gets into a company leveraging its resources, network, and integrated services to deliver on a cause. That delivery reflects a deep strategic alignment with the company's ethos that gets into community service with lasting and positive human impact. Vodafone is to be applauded for their efforts as ICT and mobile technologies have been proven to contribute with real impact to positive health outcomes for the developing world's poor.