villageTell Foundation

Rural Telephony Alliances for Developing Nations 

About villageTell Foundation

According to the World Resources Institute, four billion people live on less than $2 per day. The study further indicates that three of the most significant unmet needs of the 4 billion poor are:

  • Banking
  • Access to Financial Services
  • Owning a Phone

villageTell Foundation is a catalyst and advocacy initiative that paves the path for private sector and governmental reform to create mobile access for the rural poor, empowering citizens at the grass roots level to accelerate economic development and help them graduate from poverty.

The Last Meter Project - proposes a Rural Access Alliance (RAA) between Government, Mobile Network Operators (MNO), Mobile Transaction Operators (MTO), Microfinance Institutions (MFI), FinTech initiatives, Alternate Energy providers, and NGO's to bring access to the last meter of the rural poor and connect them to the global economy.


  • The bottom of the pyramid still remains on the other side of the wall!
  • If you don't solve both access and affordability issues at the last meter for rural poor at the same time, you lose. Your program fails. Access alone doesn't automatically create prosperity.
  • Today, most of the rural poor do not have quick, safe, cheap and reliable access to cash, the Internet or any financial services.
  • Lack of formal identity  
  • 70% of global poor live in rural areas
  • Africa is 60% rural, 700m of the 1.2B total population 
  • 70% rural signal coverage, but most people have 2 SIMS, so only 35% of rural poor have access
  • Africa has 240,000 Towers. Needs 85,000 more by 2020 = $17B CapEx
  • Rural Towers cost $200k to build, $2k/month to operate and may only serve 500 people. At <$7 ARPU it doesn't make sense for MNO's/MTO's  to expand to the last meter
  • Tower OpEx for MNO's can exceed 40%. So, they're offloading their towers to Tower Co's. Today, 20% of MNO's Towers are owned & operated by Tower Co's. 60% will be by 2020.
  • Most governments offer tax holidays for rural expansion programs. Sierra Leone's UADF (Universal Access Development Fund) has yet to build a single mast due to lack of contribution from SL MNO's. Uganda's RCDF  (Rural Communications Development Fund) is similar - both created and partial subsidized by the World Bank with little success.
  • Mobile Money challenges: rural agents have only a 15% success rate. Reason; lack of access to and distance from liquidity to rebalance. Avg 30 minutes away.
  • 4 Mobile Money Rural Success Factors (GMSA's Spotlight on Rural Supply, Oct 2015): 1. Local context matters. 2. Focus on more specific rural profiles. 3. Master agents can bridge liquidity gap. 4. MNO Collaboration in rural context - sharing of infrastructure cost.

Solution: Remittances

RemovIng remittance flow obstacles all the way to the last meter could increase a developing countries GPD by at least 10%. Remittances can exceed foreign aid and investment flow 3 to 4 times. Obstacles: Access, fees, cash scarcity, trust, corruption, regulatory framework, infrastructure, intermediaries, interorganizational cooperation and alliances, just to name a few.

Solution Scenario: Near a small village in the eastern district of Uganda, pastor Robert's mother recieves a text on her feature phone from Robert who works and lives in Kampala. She's also recieves a text from one of pastor Robert's friends at Northland Church in Orlando, FL. Both texts are remittances sent to her from the Abra P2P money transfer app just seconds before that. She instantly text Moses, a family friend in the next village less than two kilometers away. She tells him she'd like to cash out and asked if he has the money available today.

Moses is an Abra Agent that serves several villages in the district. He owns a smartphone, bike, small scooter that doubles as a boda boda (taxi) and offers other tech services for his village customers. Moses asks how much she recieved and she tells him USh 47,500 (US $14) from Robert and US $30 from her Northland friend. She needs the cash for meds and food for the month. Moses tells her he doesn't have the cash, but quickly texts his Abra Master Agent who's about 11 kilometers away. He responds and tells Moses he's just returned from the bank and is able to rebalance his account for the transaction. Moses text Robert's mother back within minutes and says he'll stop by to see her in about two hours with her cash.

How can a transaction like this happen at last meter in only a couple of hours, not 2-3 days like it used to only months ago, and for years before that? Well it can't because the bottom of the pyramid still remains on the other side of the wall. Unless an initiative like the Last Meter project can forge a Rural Access Alliance pooling together local government, MNO's, MFI's, Tower Co's, Digital-first MTO's, faith-based and non-faith-based NGO's that can create a win win program for all participants.   

Potential Partners

  1. Abra (
  2. MTN Uganda
  3. DFS Innovation Lab
  4. Tower Co's  (ATC, Eaton, Helios, IHS...)
  5. Alternative Energy Co's  (solar, wiND, ect)
  6. - The Connectivity Lab at Facebook (Free Basics)
  7. Project Loon - Google
  8. - Rugged Internet for People & Things (Erik Hersman)
  9. Financial Literacy content providers,,


  1. Uganda (East Africa Pilot)
  2. Sierra Leone (West Africa Pilot)
  3. Kenya (Pilot)
  4. Liberia
  5. South Sudan
  6. Rwanda 
  7. Ghana
Approach - Alliance Success Factors: Partners aligned in all 4 areas have an 80% chance of success. Success rate decreases to 20% if the alliance is off by only 1 area, and down to 5% success rate if your off by 2 areas!


Envision--> Design--> Build--> Implement--> Scale--> Maintain
  • Envision - create and define the vision of the Last Meter Project to bring affordable access to the rural poor, starting at the last meter and working back from there catalyzing partners with like shared vision, goals, culture, and chemistry to participate in the journey. But that journey must be a win win for all partners!
  • Design - select Pilot country (Uganda), research, analytics, feasibility study, alliance partners and structure, the 3 R's, wire model, Pilot start location(s), design document, business case, funding, and go no-go decision.
  • Build -
  • Implement - 
  • Scale -
  • Maintain -

villageTell Sierra Leone

Cell Phones Battle Poverty