GSM securing lives on Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and the source of Africa’s longest river, Nile. The lake provides livelihoods for more than 3.5 million people in 3 countries (Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya). It’s used for transport and trade across east Africa. It has a booming fish industry worth USD 590Million annually.

The lake is also one of the world’s most dangerous water ways with an estimation of 4,000 – 5,000 deaths in lake-related incidents each year. Most are fishermen who leave behind an average of 7 dependants.

In order to improve safety and security, Ericsson, GSMA Development Fund and Zain conducted a feasibility study into increasing GSM network coverage across and around Lake Victoria’s perimeter.

To-date Ericsson and Zain have begun to upgrade and extend mobile network coverage to provide people with better communication.

“If we can reduce, by even one death, of the more than 5000 each year, it will be worth the investment.” Lars Liden, President Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa.

Zain on the other hand has developed SMS and voice call services that enable fishermen on the lake, to receive weather and safety alerts as well as fish and commodity prices.

“When you dial 110, the official Lake Victoria emergency number, the Ericsson CoordCom solution will route the call to the rescue and safety center coordinating rescue activities – from taking an incoming emergency call, to pinpointing the location and dispatching the right resources such as the police, fire department, medical assistance or other appropriate service,” said Lars Stuber, Ericsson manager.

Stuber says the second phase of the project will involve the implementation of a coordinated emergency search & rescue service which will use Ericsson’s Mobile Positioning System to locate the caller’s mobile signal, increasing the chances of a successful rescue in areas around the lake.

“As the East African community gets connected to undersea cables for the first time, the communities of Lake Victoria can now access a mobile safety net” said Gabriel Solomon, Senior Vice President GSM Association.
“It is now incumbent upon the governments of East Africa to leverage this network by partnering with the private sector and delivering a rainbow of new Services.”

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About the author: Kwagala Derrick is a Ugandan computer-scientist (Programmer), social entrepreneur and educator. He's passionate about Information Technology literacy & Professionalism, mobile and Internet accessibility for all on the multilingual-multicultural African Continent.
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