In a small, rural village in Zambia, Ruth earns an income by collecting fresh vegetables from local community gardens and bringing them to market. Tending and collecting the vegetables by foot is time-consuming and inefficient, but with the help of a bicycle, she can travel more quickly along the 5 kilometers of dirt roads connecting the gardens and the market, increasing her earnings and savings.

Ruth’s story is compelling when you consider that 70 percent of the rural population in Africa lack access to all-season roads and reliable, affordable transport services. Most rely primarily on walking to reach their destinations. Globally, there are a staggering one billion people who live in rural areas isolated by distance, terrain, and lack of transportation. This isolation severely limits access to health care, education, nutritious and plentiful food, and economic opportunity. This lack of rural access (RA) particularly impacts young girls and women living in poverty, who are often left behind when it comes to education, health-care services, and opportunities to generate income.

These are women like Royce, a community health-care volunteer in Zambia who cares for sick adults and children in her village and surrounding areas. “I became a health-care volunteer because I have a passion for helping people,” said Royce.

When she started, the practicalities of pursuing her passions were daunting. Royce’s day would start with her waking up before dawn to complete her household chores, then walking 10 kilometers or more to reach her patients. Because of this, she could only see up to four patients a day. However, when Royce was able to start using a bicycle, she more than quadrupled the number of patients she could see to 18 per day. With 50-60 percent of people in poor countries living more than eight kilometers from health-care facilities without access to transportation, one can understand the impact that even a relatively simple solution, like a bicycle, can have on connecting people with essential services like health care.

Read the full article about rural transportation infrastructure by Susan Bornstein, Christina Barstow, Alisha Myers, Abbie Noriega and Christian Steiner at Stanford Social Innovation Review.