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5G Tech Spaces are a concrete example of Digital Climate Action to help COP28 signatories move away from fossil fuels

COP of Action. Photo credit: Caleb Isoe.

COP of Action. Photo credit: Caleb Isoe.

5G Tech Space designers Antti Hevosmaa and Antti-Oskari Sinkkonen. Photo credit: Johannes Terhemaa.

5G Tech Space designers Antti Hevosmaa and Antti-Oskari Sinkkonen. Photo credit: Johannes Terhemaa.

At COP28, 5G Tech Spaces were proposed to help developing economies become leaders in clean technology rather than relying on fossil-fuelled industrialization.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, December 14, 2023 / -- As nearly 200 countries struck a deal at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Wednesday to start consuming less fossil fuels in efforts to combat climate change, one initiative at the conference was already anticipating a solution by helping developing economies leverage clean technologies rather than relying on fossil-fuelled industrialization.

Together with twelve African universities, Start North, the accelerator network that promotes the application of new technologies in education, business and professional life, put forward the 5G Tech Spaces concept as a measurable means to make high-speed internet connectivity and uninterrupted green electricity available to hotspots across the African continent.

The African Universities' UN initiative on 5G Tech Spaces was presented as a key climate measure. Experiences were shared about enabling university education, work and services including in remote, otherwise poorly served areas. Preparations for the initiative had started at the IEEE Africon 2023 conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in September.

The concept not only addresses the need for digital connectivity and clean energy, but it also comes with ready digital services, educational content, business networks and access to international markets.

The 5G Tech Space is a modular high-tech unit for developing software applications, including applications that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and those that require ultra-fast internet connections to render immersive, three-dimensional (3D), virtual-reality (VR) and augmented-reality (AR) learning environments, as well as to deliver innovation services and remote work from and to any location in the world.


Universities are hotspots for learning, innovation, entrepreneurship and employability. The roll-out of 5G Tech Spaces across African universities will create high-performance educational and entrepreneurial environments, connecting campuses across Africa as well as between continents.

Africa produces only about 4 percent of the world’s emissions, but is disproportionately vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Reuters’ news agency reported that, according to policy director Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the climate deal did not provide for sufficient financing from rich countries to help developing countries transition away from fossil fuels.

At the same time, if basic digital infrastructure needs are met, and provided that appropriate services are deployed to leverage that infrastructure, Africa indeed has the opportunity to become a leader in the fight against climate change.

The growing list of African universities supporting the adoption of 5G Tech Spaces includes, in alphabetical order:

Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
African School of Economics, Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria
Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia
Kenyatta University, Kenya
Obafemi Awolowo University (Ile-Ife), Nigeria
The Technical University of Kenya
University of Cape Town, South Africa
University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
University of Lagos, Nigeria
University of Lusaka, Zambia
University of Nairobi, Kenya
University of Namibia


At the Finnish Pavilion and in peripheral discussions, preliminary experiences were being presented on how university education, work and a variety of services were brought to a small village in rural Zambia.

Chiyumu village is located in a remote area in Monze District, in Zambia’s Southern Province. Start North has set up a 5G Tech Space in the village in cooperation with universities and companies, including Afstor Oy from Finland, which implements Solar Cooker systems. The solar-powered system provides green electricity and electricity storage, thereby reducing the need for wood burning.

It provides internet connectivity as well. Local schools have been able to use the internet in teaching. Teachers have been able to train themselves through internet courses. Students have been able to submit study reports electronically to the district's central schools and their registers, avoiding time-consuming travel.

Together with the NGOs GLM Finland and GLM Zambia, Afstor has started nursery operations. Villagers who received the Solar Cooker stove have planted a large number of trees to absorb CO2.

In the next phase, the village is moving to utilizing VR/AR technology in education, innovation, work and services. Virtual- and augmented-reality environments are used, for example, to teach young people how to weld.

Chiyumu village serves as an excellent example of 5G Tech Spaces as an impactful Digital Climate Action. It helps people in remote areas to educate, innovate, create jobs, improve their earnings and develop their services, while reducing emissions and furthering climate goals.


Africa's most renowned Universities are keen to be at the Forefront of Research, Innovation and Outreach (RIO) of technologies, products, services and operating models that reduce CO2 emissions and help attain Net Zero Emissions (NZE). To achieve this, the gap between rhetoric and action needs to be reduced, if we are to have a fighting chance of reaching Net Zero by 2050 and capping the rise in global temperature at 1.5 °C in full attainment of the Paris Agreement. 5G Tech Spaces provide a unique, concrete opportunity to further climate goals.


The United Nations (UN) holds an annual conference, known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), to bring together world leaders, ministers and negotiators to agree on how to address climate change.

This year’s edition, called COP28, took place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, between 30 November and 13 December. The UN’s first global stocktake report shows much more must be done to meet the goals of the landmark Paris Agreement.


Start North is an association that serves as an accelerator network to promote the learning and application of new technologies in order to meet the challenges of global sustainable development.

The accelerator network consists of world-leading universities, companies, and not-for-profit organizations.


Dr. Jari Handelberg (PhD.), Chairman of the Board of Start North.


Start North website:
COP28 Media Release, Start North, November 29, 2023.
High-Tech 5G Cottages for Africa, Media Release, August 18, 2023.
ASE launches 5G Tech Spaces, Media Release, Start North, April 20, 2023.

Jari Handelberg
Start North
+358 50 3478470
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