Mobile Entrepreneurs in Africa Vodafone sponsored Web Foundation Project Stephen Wolak Vodafone Group R&D 11 th Sept 2010 Mobile Entrepreneurs in Africa 11 th September 2010 Advance the Web to Empower People
Web Foundation - projects Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 www.webfoundation.org
Vodafone donates $1m to Web Foundation Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 “ It is clear that the creation of the World Wide Web combined with the growing ubiquity of mobile technology presents us with a unique opportunity to drive positive change,” Vittorio Colao, CEO Vodafone Group “ The work of the Foundation will help us understand how society is adapting to new technologies. We will use the insights to help shape the communications infrastructure of the future in order to give as many people as possible access to the benefits that the Web provides.”
Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 Vodafone sponsored Web Foundation Project
Hypothesis Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 Training entrepreneurs in developing countries on relevant mobile technologies and business models, will lead to the creation of new mobile services that result in positive socio-economic impact.
Why? Four assumptions Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 Mobile as main device to access content 1 448.1 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa by the end of 2009 Ovum research Smartphones are entering the market four times faster than PCs or laptops Fred Baumhardt - at Tech-Ed Africa 2009 Photo by nchenga - http://flic.kr/p/7xumP6
Why? Four assumptions Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 Untapped potential 2 Very recent awareness of: potential of mobile phones as an ICT platform, different technologies that are available, opportunities of developing commercially-viable services From June 2009 to June 2010, in the top 12 countries in Africa, mobile web page views increased by 182%, unique users increased by 124%, amount of data transferred increased by 160% Source: Opera http://www.opera.com/smw/2010/06/ However…
Why? Four assumptions Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 Local development of relevant content 3 One size doesn’t fit all Local needs and forms of expression are better interpreted by local producers
Why? Four assumptions Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana 11 th September 2010 Small players could disrupt the market 4 Everything big Starts small
Choose a country – suitable for a first pilot Go there and understand what’s the context: gaps, needs, existing initiatives…. In order to plan
Vision This project is based on a vision of what the Web and PCs are enabling in developed economies today, and what the Web and mobile phones could enable in developing economies in the future: A world where any entrepreneur with an idea can acquire the technical and business skills to easily create and deploy new mobile services and receive a stream of revenue. A world where all people — from rural underprivileged communities to rich urban neighborhoods — can make more powerful use of the mobile they have in their pockets to save time, save money, and access services that can improve lives, including services that substitute for a lack of physical facilities (e.g., access educational materials where there is no school, access health services where there is no hospital, etc.).
According to a report by Ovum Research by the end of 2009 there were some 448.1 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, up from just 373.0 million at the end of 2008 – a stunning 20 percent increase representing 75 million new subscribers in just one year. Last year, at Microsoft SA’s Tech-Ed Africa 2009 conference in Durban, Executive Fred Baumhardt revealed that mobile devices such as smartphones are entering the market four times faster than PCs or laptops. New phones (e.g. Android-based IDEOS, Vodafone 845 / another Android-based phone) are smart and cheap
The potential offered by mobile phones is largely untapped, and mobile services and content offers for users are very limited, while lots of simple services could dramatically improve the lives of those living in underprivileged communities There is a lack of global awareness of the potential of mobile phones as an open ICT platform, of the different technologies that are available, and of the opportunities of developing sustainable or commercially-viable services Opera mini: From June 2009 to June 2010, page views in the top 12 countries in Africa increased by 182%, unique users increased by 124%, and the amount of data transferred increased by 160% (http://www.opera.com/smw/2010/06/)
Content produced should be relevant to the local population. And while there are going to be lots of big players producing tool and content from different markets, there are key needs and particular contextual factors that make the development of relevant content more difficult to interpret and justify – if the producers are not local While the primary beneficiaries of a large offer of mobile services would be end-users who could improve their lives or their businesses, all actors of the domain will also take advantage of the expansion of the market: content and service providers will have new business opportunities, NGOs and development actors will have new tools to improve their work and their impact, young people will have more employment opportunities, and mobile phone operators will have more traffic and value-added services (VAS), moving from voice+sms to data service revenue.
Everything big start small. Also, revenues may not justify the business case and the flexibility of big companies to take bold initiatives. But big companies can support and facilitate it. It is possible to create a virtuous circle where success stories and demonstrations of the potential will create excitement and further investment/development, leading to more success stories and so on. It is likely that the first success stories will come from small stakeholders, individual entrepreneurs and SMEs, that have the dynamism and energy to investigate a new and promising domain. Those hypotheses are the basis for this project. Our experience with developed markets shows that one key element of the creation of a local vibrant mobile ecosystem is a strong community, gathering all concerned actors (user communities, operators, IT companies, entrepreneurs, universities, professional training institution, NGOs and development agencies). Such a community will enable a dialog between the different actors, and will bring an understanding of the potential and challenges, which each actor can contribute to, or benefit from.
Community Building It is clear that that the emergence of a dynamic ecosystem based on mobile content and services, and the ability to unlock the market require a joint effort from all parties. Each type of actor has challenges and opportunities that are not necessarily understood by other actors, which might otherwise provide appropriate services. On the other end, a strong community is a great asset for young entrepreneurs to find help, support and advices. The social capital is a critical part of the success. Therefore, part of the objectives of this visit was to identify the most appropriate mechanism to build such a community. Targets Based on our different meetings, we believe that the following sectors could contribute and benefit from the community Software/IT companies Operators NGOs/Development sector User communities: (association of) fishermen, teachers, etc. that would provide use-cases, and interesting areas for the use of mobile and ICT in socio-economic development Universities and polytechnics (technology focused, but also potentially business schools) Staff/Management Heads of student associations Individual entrepreneurs Communication For the community to function well, there is a need for both face-to-face events and online tools to share information, convene, collaborate etc. Facebook was mentioned multiple times as the major hub for online communications and exchanges. At least creating a dedicated Facebook group to send announcements and put material online is clearly a useful thing to do. It is also important to keep in mind that more traditional way of e-communication, such as mailing-list, are still heavily used by many people, particularly in the academic and business sector. Therefore, email connection through mailing-list should also be considered. Events The best way to create momentum is through face-to-face events that will make the different parties meet, and exchange ideas together. A few existing events were mentioned: Busyinternet used to organize regular events on ICTD but the series stopped (TBC) ISOC Ghana is meeting regularly Ghana Google Technology User Group meets few times a year Ghana Linux User Group also meets regularly and organizes various training sessions. Ginks ICT4D Series BarCamps: The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology hosted a BarCamp Ghana in 2009 , which was the second one after the 2008 edition hosted by Kofi Anan Center of Excellence in ICT . While each event has its own purpose, those different networks and events are a good way to outreach to many different communities that have a role to play in the take-off of the mobile content and service market. A few people mentioned that while public events are useful they might be inefficient for real collaboration, and it would be better to consider different types of events: public ones for general awareness, and some that would just gather major stakeholders and focus on exchange, understanding and collaboration. It is also important to note that Ashesi university is currently working towards setting up a Mobile Monday chapter in Accra. As this was one of the ideas we had, we will collaborate with the organizer to see how we can help them with starting. A Mobile Monday Accra chapter could be the community's regular public event we mention above. One of the major roles of such events is to serve as a vector of dissemination of the future training sessions and, following the sessions, as a forum for trained entrepreneurs to discuss and continue building their ideas. Structure One way to meet the need for two levels of interactions (public and community members) is to create a formal structure for the community, in the form of a non-profit association that will gather all the members. The association would have a set of activities including at least: Organizing training Organizing regular events for its members Organizing awareness-raising events (at specific places or for the public) Providing support to its members and the public at large in the domain of mobile content and services. Support might be in the form of a repository of knowledge and information, online collaboration tools and fora, etc. The financial sustainability of the association will come from the organization of training sessions, the patronage of sponsors and other sources of funding to be determined (eg, public funding). It will be part of the first steps to build a business plan for the association, to have at least one fulltime staff. The Web Foundation will fund the initial period to bootstrap the process and help to reach the sustainability point. Training session Profile of targeted participants The question about the profile of the targeted participants in the future training sessions is a critical one that impacts the whole structure of the session. Clearly, in order to build innovative mobile content and services, programming and software development is essential. Even if some tools exist to make simple SMS applications, or to develop mobile content without any knowledge of programming, most interactive services requires some degree of software development and programming. The objective of the project is not to build such capacities, but to focus on the mobile platform. Moreover, it seems that universities are providing hundreds of students with such skills. Therefore setting up such entry barriers/prerequisites should not lead to recruitment difficulties. Nevertheless, the objective of the project is to train entrepreneurs . Many people pointed out the fact that most computer science students don't have any kind of business skills or experience to start and run a company. These skills are essential for a successful entrepreneur. Therefore, in order to have any success and impact with such training, it is essential to ensure that selected participants have both skills, either individually or, more likely, as a team. It might be that different people from an existing company attend different parts of the course (see content below), or have two people pairing, one with business education and one with computer science education, for the training course with the objectives to build a joint company together. Content The content of the training will be split in two parts: Technical side of mobile services The technologies that are in scope for the project are SMS, Mobile Web, Voice applications, and mobile applications (eg, iPhone or Android apps). The training course should at least present an introduction to each of those technologies, and demonstrate it. However, based on services and opportunities operators offer (or will offer) for deployment, some technologies will present more opportunities than others. Therefore the training will focus on them. It is fair to say that that SMS applications seem to be the most promising lead in the short term. We will develop a document to make explicit the type of support operators can offer to ease the deployment and business implementation of mobile services. The course should contain details about how to work with operators and their platforms, as well as how to work without operators. It is also critical to have a large part of the training dedicated to hands-on work, coding, and development. Business side of mobile services A substantial part of the course will focus on business aspects of mobile services. This will include ways to attract revenue from end users, the costs associated with the delivery of services in the different technologies, means of outreach to potential customers, existing business models, etc. This section will not contain basic business information such as book keeping or registration of new companies, but might point to relevant information available online. That said, it might also integrate some elements of finance that will help with effective monitoring of financial progress to ensure sustainability and growth pattern monitoring specific to mobile applications and services. For each part, it is important to compile examples and success stories from other countries or regions. This will not only provide inspiration for individuals, but also illustrate some of the concepts. The Web Foundation will develop the content of the first training session, and will educate people who will be trainers for future sessions. NB : In terms of existing similar initiatives, we found only a course at Ashesi University based on EPROM content, which is focusing mostly on mobile phone programming.
Use the potential offered by existing communities and associations in order to get better understanding of what are the potential needs and services to be developed.
Entrepreneurs skills and expertise is not just about sales and market and finance. It’s the ability to stick to a vision for creating a series of ‘economically sustainable’ products, and develop it to the far end.
Generally, the more “complex” the technology, the fewer users it will reach. But that can be ok, depending on your community