NEW YORK – A cross-sector coalition of partners will help bring Coca-Cola’s EKOCENTER innovation to 20 countries by the end of 2015, Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent announced today during a press conference at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

Coca-Cola is teaming up with DEKA R&D, IBM, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UPS, NRG Energy, Qualcomm, McCann Health and TechnoServe to deliver clean drinking water, basic necessities and employment opportunities to rural communities. The announcement comes a year after Coke launched a partnership with DEKA R&D to implement the Slingshot water purification technology across the developing world. Slingshot units turn nearly any source of dirty water into 850 liters of safe drinking water per day, using less electricity than a hairdryer.

EKOCENTER press conference

Leaders from the EKOCENTER partner organizations address the media at the Clinton Global Initiative.

The diverse group of partners will work with local governments and NGOs to develop, deploy and operate EKOCENTERs in some of the world’s most distressed areas, enabling the delivery of 500 million liters of safe drinking water and basic necessities while promoting local development in communities that need it most.

“This is the beginning of a journey,” Kent said alongside leaders from the partner organizations. “We have a lot more to do, but we are taking action.”

All EKOCENTER kiosks – which are produced from 20-ft. shipping containers – will include a Slingshot water unit. The self-sustaining, off-the-grid community centers and retail outlets also will offer locally relevant products, services and resources including mobile phone-charging stations, Internet connectivity, refrigerated vaccination storage, health education, household items, food and beverages.

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'This is the beginning of a journey,' Coke CEO Muhtar Kent said at the EKOCENTER press conference.

Each “downtown in a box” will be run by a local female entrepreneur who will receive business skills training through Coke’s 5by20 program.

“The economic benefits to those that will run EKOCENTERs will enrich countless others,” Kent added.

Coca-Cola will lead the project, managing site selection, installation and maintenance of each EKOCENTER. Coca-Cola led the EKOCENTER vision and design as well as the creation and installation of the prototype unit near Johannesburg, South Africa. TechnoServe will support on-the-ground operations by identifying and training local women entrepreneurs and creating a sustainable business model.

The partners, all leaders in their respective industries, will bring complementary skills and expertise – from supply chain logistics, to solar energy, to wireless communications, to funding and implementation – to help optimize and scale the EKOCENTER concept. Read the press release for more details.

“When Coca-Cola makes the type of commitments Muhtar has made, it requires the deployment of the most advanced technology to achieve the goals that have been set,” said David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, which will provide solar panels and battery storage to power the kiosks. “Instead of the developing world getting three-generations-old technology, what you see here today is the developing world getting the latest technology that’s not even being deployed yet in places like the United States. We cannot think of any better use of our skills in developing and deploying solar technology in new ways than as part of EKOCENTER.”

Dean Kamen, CEO of DEKA R&D and Slingshot inventor, explained how Coke's leadership and proven ability to execute inspired the partners to collectively tackle the "Goliath problem of bad water."

“We're getting enough of a coalition together that this idea is becoming a reality," Kamen said. "And like a lot of new ideas that go from indefensible to indispensable once visionary leaders get behind them, this little machine has the potential, in a relatively short time, to transform the number-one health problem of today into a problem of the past.”