Microfinance Equity Fund Supports Internet Service Provider for Rural Markets
ACCION Gateway Microfinance Infrastructure Fund Invests in United Villages
Boston , MA, August 22, 2007 – ACCION ® International, a pioneer and leader in global microfinance, today announced that its Gateway Microfinance Infrastructure Fund (GMI) has completed an investment in United Villages, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
United Villages, Inc. a rural Internet Service Provider, provides people in the developing world with a lifetime phone number, email address, Internet access, and a stored-value account for under $1 per person in cost to the company. By installing its low-cost Mobile Access Points (MAPs) on existing vehicles (e.g. buses and motorcycles) that pass through rural areas, United Villages enables access for WiFi-enabled kiosks along village roads. Customer transactions are stored on kiosk computers that transfer information to the MAPs whenever they are in range. Then, the MAPs upload and download all of the data from and for those kiosks once they are connected to the Internet, creating a store-and-forward “drive-by” WiFi network.
Created in 2006, GMI is a unique equity fund designed to invest in technology and information service companies that support the microfinance industry. GMI’s investment in United Villages will be accompanied by a board observer role for ACCION. In addition to the investment, ACCION and United Villages will work together to identify synergies between remote-access technology and the financial products and services offered by ACCION’s 35 partner microfinance institutions throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
“United Villages’ technology is a compelling platform that provides the rural poor with connectivity to economic opportunities that, until now, they’ve been unable to access,” said Matt Thomas, senior director and manager of ACCION’s GMI Fund. “This investment is an ideal fit for GMI, which seeks to develop companies that can help the microfinance industry achieve greater scale and efficiency.”
Amir Alexander Hasson, founder and CEO of United Villages, added, “We look forward to working with ACCION to provide millions of villagers living in poor rural areas with access to locally-relevant products and services that can help them save time
and money. The combination of United Villages’ business model and ACCION’s global microfinance expertise will create new opportunities for our customers as well as for microfinance institutions seeking to expand their reach to clients.”
About ACCION International
ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need—microenterprise loans, business training, and other financial services—to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. ACCION International’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $100 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 25 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, and in the U.S. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 14 million loans totaling more than $9.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid. Selected for the fourth consecutive year for its pioneering approaches to poverty alleviation, ACCION is among 43 organizations awarded the 2007 Social Capitalist Award by Fast Company magazine, and has been awarded Charity Navigator’s highest rating—four stars—for efficiency and sound fiscal management. For more information, visit www.accion.org .
About United Villages
United Villages, Inc. based in Cambridge, MA, provides villagers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America with a digital identity and access to products and services using its patented, store-and-forward Village Area Network technology. The company’s MAPs are installed on existing vehicles and automatically provide access for WiFi-enabled kiosks along the roads. United Villages sells prepaid cards to village kiosk operators and local sales agents who resell the cards to users at a profit and provide a human interface for products and services, which include sending and receiving voicemails and emails, purchasing products such as medicines and books, accessing services such as job searches and travel bookings, and browsing locally-relevant websites. For more information on United Villages, visit www.unitedvillages.com .
ACCION® is a registered trademark of ACCION International.
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Media contacts:Source: www.accion.org
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