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ACCION® International, a pioneer and leader in global microfinance, 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."