Ericsson and United Nations Development Programme have signed an agreement to explore ways for mobile telephony and networks to improve access to health, government, education and financial services in rural China.

This three-year public-private partnership aims to foster growth and bridge the digital divide, using business-led solutions that accelerate and sustain access to services and livelihood opportunities in rural Chinese areas. Guided by China's national development priorities, Ericsson and UNDP will identify promising ways to use mobile technology to achieve social aims and develop pilot projects.

One example put forth by the companies is to access to rural financial services, which is high on the agenda of China's government. Geographical isolation can make it expensive and difficult for Chinese in rural areas to get credit, send remittances or make deposits. A mobile phone can change the nature of rural finance by making banking services immediately accessible. Farmers and entrepreneurs can also use mobile communications to get up-to-date market information.

With slight adaptations of existing business models, the private sector can develop large new market segments in areas with low average revenue per user. Initiatives set in motion by the partnership are intended to establish incentives that private and public entities will seize upon, helping expand these segments further.

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