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Web 2.0: Networking to Eradicate Poverty

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The internet phenomenon of Web 2.0 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0) – the name given to the wave of internet businesses and websites such as YouTube (www.youtube.com), Facebook and MySpace transforming the way people interact with the ‘Net – has also given birth to two new development-themed social networking websites.

This powerful tool to bring people together is galvanizing the resources of entrepreneurs and those who want to help the poor like never before. The sites are becoming a new weapon in the fight to eradicate poverty.

Social networking websites use various tools and applications (or ‘apps’ for short) to enhance the ability of users to connect and get things done. By bringing together a community of like-minded people, they are able to shorten the time it takes to organize and kick-start events. Web 2.0 can be used to build communities and social and business networks. By being able to store vast quantities of information online, it becomes faster to work and reduces the painful delays brought on by slow connections.

All these new tools are making it easier and easier for entrepreneurs to work from home, in internet centres, or anywhere there is a wireless connection – and it is slashing the costs of managing a business. All the applications are online so there is no need to be hidebound by one operating system or hardware capability.

Two newly launched social networking sites are targetting the poverty-eradication community.

One is named after the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) concept as conceived by C.K. Prahalad. The BOP is the 4 billion people at the base of the global economic pyramid. As Prahalad sees it, they represent a vast market of unmet needs for entrepreneurs to tackle.

New social networking website BOP Source hopes to make the money meet the market. Started by Jenara Nerenberg, BOP Source wants to put social networking tools into the hands of the world’s poor. It is a place to post business ideas and collaborate with others to make them happen. It is also a tool to educate businesses about the BOP and what the poor need done. And it hopes to help NGOs broaden their relationships with their constituencies and companies.

While marketers can learn about the needs of the BOP, individuals can directly express their needs on the website and seek out the right people to solve problems.

Another social networking website is Business Fights Poverty. Already at 1,000 members, it is a multimedia offering, with podcasts, videos, interviews and discussions about the role of business in addressing development goals.

Published: November 2008

Resources

  • BOP Source is a platform for companies and individuals at the BOP to directly communicate, ultimately fostering close working relationships, and for NGOs and companies to dialogue and form mutually valuable public-private partnerships that serve the BOP. Website: http://bopsource.ning.com/
  • Business Fights Poverty: Business Fights Poverty is the free-to-join, fast-growing, international network for professionals passionate about fighting world poverty through good business. Website: http://businessfightspoverty.ning.com/
  • Afriville is a Web 2.0 service and an African Caribbean social network. Afriville is a community website along the lines of the famous MySpace. Users are free to message and post profiles. The difference is that the user is able to choose how closed or open the networks are. The site features a state of the art music management system which allows African and Caribbean artists to get straight in touch with their fans.
  • Both Yahoo! And Google offer extensive free online tools for entrepreneurs and businesses that integrate seamlessly with their email services.
  • Kabissa: Space for Change in Africa: An online African web community promoting and supporting the transition to Web 2.0 services in Africa. Offers lots of opportunities to meet people throughout Africa and learn more.
  • Global Voices: An initiative from the Reuters news agency to aggregate the global conversation online from countries outside the US and Western Europe.
  • Information, Knowledge and Communication: Web 2.0 in Development Cooperation Bonn, Germany, 27-28 November 2008, Gustav Heinemann Haus. Website: http://www.eadi.org/index.php?id=994
  • 3rd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD2009). Website: http://www.ictd2009.org

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Southern Innovator’s online archive portal was launched in New York City, U.S.A. (home to the UN’s headquarters) in 2011 (southerninnovator.org).
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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Popular Chinese Social Media Chase New Markets

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

China has a vast and growing market for the Internet and mobile devices. Over the past decade that market has been largely confined to China –  most businesses have had enough domestic demand and opportunities inside the country to keep them busy.

But now companies in China’s dynamic Internet and mobile sector are seeking out new markets outside the country. Both online shopping service Alibaba (alibaba.com) and Weibo (weibo.com), the Chinese version of Twitter (twitter.com), are seeking to list on the New York Stock Exchange. The excitement this news has generated shows how many people want to get a piece of the large Chinese market for technology, social networks and online shopping. It is also sending a chill through America’s Silicon Valley – home to the country’s innovative high technology sector – that they are missing out on China’s fast-growing marketplace. Many American services are banned from operating in China. Even more worrying for Silicon Valley, these home-grown Chinese companies, with the market sewn up at home, are now set to compete globally for customers using their increasingly deep pockets.

One example is Tencent (http://www.tencent.com/en-us/index.shtml), owner of popular Chinese social messaging application (app) Weixin (weixin.qq.com), known as WeChat (wechat.com) outside China. Used on mobile phones and smartphones, Weixin has gained 300 million users in just three years, becoming the dominant social messaging service in the world’s largest smartphone market. Its has been so successful that many rivals are trying to chip away at its customer base.

Weixin, pronounced way-shin, allows smartphone users to send messages and share news, photos, videos and web links with friends. One of its selling points is its claim to not store messages on its servers.

Building on its success in social networking in China, it is looking to expand in other markets, including Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America. It also wants to grow its offerings in online payment and e-commerce.

One factor in Weixin’s success is the ability to send messages by recording a voice message rather than just typing in characters: very useful for non-Latin script users, and especially for Chinese-language users, who use thousands of characters in everyday communication.

One ambitious forecast claims Weixin could reach 400 million users and make US $500 million revenue within a year.

Cosmetics marketer Jenny Zhao, who uses an iPhone 5, told The New York Times: “I’m probably on Weixin six hours a day. A lot of what I do revolves around it.”

“I use Weixin every day,” said Zhang Shoufeng, a food and drinks seller. “My friends are on it and my boss is on it. We are talking about where to eat, where to hang out and where to meet for company conferences. This is how we communicate.”

Analysts believe Weixin has benefitted from not having to compete with banned-in-China American company Facebook (facebook.com).

“Even if Facebook had permission, it’s probably too late,” said Wang Xiaofeng, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Weixin has all the functionality of Facebook and Twitter, and Chinese have already gotten used to it.”

Tencent is an example of a wider trend: As Chinese companies and offerings have become stronger, wealthier and more innovative, they increasingly look to build their customer base outside China.

Founded in November, 1998, Tencent, Inc. has grown into China’s largest and most used Internet service portal. Its most popular services include QQ (QQ Instant Messenger), WeChat, QQ.com, QQ Games, Qzone, 3g.QQ.com, SoSo, PaiPai and Tenpay, as well as Weixin.

The company claims to put innovation at the heart of its business, with more than half of its employees devoted to research and development. The Tencent Research Institute, established in 2007 with RMB 100 million (US $16 million), calls itself “China’s first Internet research institute, with campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.” It has patents for technologies it has developed for instant messaging, e-commerce, online payment services, search, information security, and gaming.

Tencent was driven to innovate by a fear it could quickly become irrelevant in the information technology space. Weixin is also pioneering ways to book taxis, hotels and airline flights through the service and even ways to control home appliances.

“Chinese Internet companies are no longer behind,” said William Bao Bean, a managing director at the venture capital firm SingTel Innov8 (http://innov8.singtel.com/). “Now in some areas, they’re leading the way.”

Published: April 2014

Resources

1) Weibo: Sina Weibo is a Chinese microblogging (weibo) website. Akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, it is one of the most popular sites in China, in use by well over 30 per cent of Internet users, with a market penetration similar to what Twitter has established in the USA. Website: weibo.com

2) Laiwang: A variation on the WeChat service, its biggest competitor. Website: laiwang.com

3) WhatsApp: WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. Website: whatsapp.com

4) Southern Innovator Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology: Pioneering and innovative ways to deploy mobile phones and information technology to tackle poverty. Website: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1 and here: http://tinyurl.com/q6bfnpz

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Texting For Cheaper Marketplace Food With SokoText

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

An international group of graduate-social entrepreneurs from the London School of Economics (LSE) is pioneering a way to reduce food prices in Kenya using mobile phones.

Answering a call to action to address global food insecurity by the Hult Prize (hultprize.org), the team members looked at how they could make food cheaper for urban slum dwellers.

The Hult Prize, funded by Swedish educational entrepreneur and billionaire, Bertil Hult, is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from the world’s universities. The winner receives US $1 million and mentorship to make their idea become real.

SokoText (sokotext.com) (soko means market in Swahili) uses SMS (short message service) messages from mobile phones to empower vegetable sellers and kiosk owners in slums when it comes to bargaining the price for wholesale fresh produce. SokoText makes it possible for them to benefit from bulk prices by pooling their orders together every day. Usually vendors lack the funds to buy in bulk and have to make numerous time-consuming trips to the centre of Nairobi to buy stock.

SokoText reduces the price of fresh produce by 20 per cent for kiosk owners by buying the produce earlier in the supply chain. SokoText then delivers the food to a wholesale outlet at the entrance to the slum.

This approach makes available a wider range of produce and reduces the price. And best of all, it will knock down prices for the poorest people and enable them to buy more food and better quality food.

The team behind SokoText come from a variety of countries – Colombia, Canada, Kenya, Britain and Germany.

Hatched at the LSE, the enterprise prototyped its service in Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya for four weeks during the summer of 2013 with 27 users and began the second phase of testing in November 2013, working with a local NGO, Community Transformers (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Community-Transformers-kenya/119937408165671).

According to SokoText, slum dwellers spend on average 60 per cent of their daily budget on food.

Mobile phones can be transformative since they are now a common communications tool, even in slums.

On the SokoText website, respected blogger and commentator on technology in Africa, Erik Hersman (http://whiteafrican.com/about/), calls it “a fantastic low-tech approach that could really scale for decreasing the inefficiencies in urban slum markets.”

SokoText’s 21-year-old co-founder and chief executive, Suraj Gudka, explained the genesis of the project to news and technology in Africa website, 140Friday.com.

“From our research, the Mama Mboga (small-scale vegetable retailers) spend between 150 and 200 Kenyan shillings (US $1.70 and US $2.3) daily, about 25 per cent of her revenue, to buy her stock, and since they do not buy in bulk they [she] get their goods at a higher price.”

Getting the market traders to cooperate is very difficult, Gudka found, because competition is fierce and trust is low. SokoText sees itself as a solution to this situation. By encouraging bulk buying by way of the SMS text service, there is no need to build trust between the traders before the produce is purchased.

“To use our service, the interested retailers would be required to send us an SMS every evening detailing what they need,” said Gudka, “and then we will source the produce and they come pick it up from us the next morning. In this way they do not have to incur the additional costs of transporting their goods and it also saves them time.”

SokoText is being incubated at the Nailab (nailab.co.ke) in Nairobi, a startup accelerator that offers a three to 12 month entrepreneurship program, with a focus on growing innovative technology-driven ideas.

SokoText’s summer pilot test confirmed taking the orders can work but found getting the product to the market in time was difficult.

The next step will be to set up a presence in the Mathare slum.

“We will be selling about seven to 10 different kinds of produce, and from our calculations, according to our projections for how much the Mama Mbogas buy every day, we hope to get  40-50 customers within three months,” Gudka said.

Published: December 2013

Resources

1) SokoText: The website explains further how the service works. Website: sokotext.com

2) Hult Prize: The Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs. It encourages the world’s brightest business minds to compete in teams to solve the planet’s biggest challenges with innovative ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises. Annual Hult Prize winners can make their ideas reality with the help of US $1 million in seed funding. Website: hultprize.org

3) White African: Where Africa and Technology Collide! Website: http://whiteafrican.com/about/

4) Nailab: Nailab (Nairobi Incubation Lab) is a startup accelerator that offers an entrepreneurship program focusing on growing innovative technology driven ideas. This is done through providing business advice, technical training and support, professional mentoring and coaching, giving access to market and fostering strategic partnerships as well as linking them to investors. Website: nailab.co.ke

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hPNcAwAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+december+2013&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challenges-december-2013-issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

SokoText co-founder Sofia Zab (left). She oversees SokoText’s marketing strategy and manages SokoText’s technology products.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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DIY Solution Charges Mobile Phones With Batteries

There are now more than 3.5 billion mobile phones in use around the world. In the past five years, their use and distribution has exploded across the global South, including in once hard-to-reach places in Africa. In fact, Africa is the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market. Over the past five years the continent’s mobile phone usage has increased at an annual rate of 65 percent – twice the rate of Asia.

The world’s poor are creative users of mobile phones, adapting these powerful tools to help with business, saving and spending money, and communicating with the outside world. As powerful as mobile phones are, they need electricity to stay functioning. And it is the struggle to find a steady supply of electricity that vexes many in the South.

There are wind-up mobile phone chargers, solar powered chargers (http://tinyurl.com/bg3wac), and mobile phone chargers you wave about. But most of these devices are, to someone who is poor and living in the South, expensive and hard to find. So what to do when it is not possible to buy a solar powered mobile phone charger?

Necessity is the mother of much invention. And one inventing mother is Mrs. Muyonjo, a housewife in a remote village of Ivukula in Iganga district, Eastern Uganda. She used to ride her bicycle for 20 miles in order to get to the nearest small town with an electricity charger for her mobile phone battery.

If that wasn’t a struggle enough, she was one day deceived by a vendor running a village battery charger.

“I will never give my telephone to the village battery chargers again,” she told the Women of Uganda Network (www.wougnet.org). “I gave them my new phone for charging, and they changed my battery and instead returned to me an old battery whose battery life can only last for one day.”

Ripped off by the vendor and unable to find the money or time to charge the battery daily, she decided to find an alternative charging solution.

“I looked at what was readily available to me and came up with my own charger. I devised this method to enable me to charge my battery every day. It works perfectly.”

A simple solution that shows there is no need to be a prisoner of technology, just its adaptor.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2009

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mLKXBgAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+february+2009&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsfebruary2009issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022