Connectivity for Development: Weekly Review 5/18 – 5/22

The internet has enabled mass information sharing and in recent years, education has been taken to the next level thanks to e-learning programs and applications. Unfortunately, in many developing countries, lack of reliable internet access prevents citizens from benefitting from online education. Innovative entrepreneurs, like the founders of our portfolio company, BRCK, are working to solve this problem and deliver global internet access. Below are articles highlighting how achieving global connectivity will contribute to social and economic development.

E-Learning Makes Higher Education Possible for More African Students by Dana Sanchez on AFK Insider

A growing number of African students are earning university degrees from around the world thanks to e-learning. Professors thousands of miles away are using applications such as Skype to communicate with students, allowing students in Sub-Saharan Africa without access to local higher education to finally attend college. African politicians are catching on following the success of the African Virtual University that trained 43,000 students using virtual learning since it was launched in partnership with Indiana University. Today, 19 African countries have sighted a charter establishing AVU as an intergovernmental organization.

While these are positive developments for education in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that has seen the lowest university attendance in the world, poor internet access will hinder widespread adoption of e-learning. It will be critical that innovations in infrastructure are made in order for those living in remote areas to benefit from e-learning.

How an Expanded Internet Will Strengthen the Knowledge Economy on PSFK

Today, only one-third of the world has internet access. In an age where connectivity means access to information, the knowledge gap between the connected and not connected will continue to grow unless global connectivity is achieved. Companies like Facebook are beginning to invest in non-traditional infrastructures to provide internet access to the 5 billion people without connectivity, the majority of whom live in developing countries.

One example of an innovation taking giant leaps in bridging the growing knowledge divide is our portfolio company, BRCK. BRCK is a mobile, self-powered Wi-Fi device that allows users to connect to the internet from remote areas. The portable modem is delivering connectivity to rural villages where power is sparse. Frankie Onuong of BRCK describes the benefits saying, “With Internet connectivity, the community will be able to access government services, access educational content and sell…beautiful artwork abroad.”

How a Kenyan-Born Tech Company is Helping to Make Every Voice Count on The Venture

Ushahidi, a Kenyan-Born Tech company that spun out BRCK, created on open-source crowd mapping software that places power at the fingertips of ordinary citizens, working to fill the information void in East Africa. Today the company has evolved into an ever-expanding tech company, and Ushahidi’s digital tools have been used to generate sites that monitor everything from natural disasters and human rights violations to costs of goods around the world.

New Here?
▪Learn about what we do.
▪Follow us on Twitter.
▪Like us on Facebook.
▪Join us on LinkedIn.
▪Add us on Google+.
▪Sign up for our mailing list.
▪Catch up on past Weekly Reviews.

Solar for Development: Weekly Review 5/11 – 5/15

Solar energy has experienced major scale globally in recent years. Today, as prices continue to drop and technologies improve, developing countries are beginning to capitalize on its offerings. Startups are popping up all over Sub-saharan Africa and rural India, offering BoP consumers access to clean, sustainable electricity at affordable prices. Below are articles highlighting the opportunities that solar offers to developing countries, and how startups, like our portfolio companies Simpa Networks and SolarNow are experiencing major success in the space.

Solar Offers Huge Opportunities to African Startups by Tom Jackson on Disrupt Africa

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 585 million people in Sub-saharan Africa lack access to electricity, and the region has a 20% grid access rate. However, the answer to this problem may have been found in sustainable, and increasingly affordable solar energy. Today, Africa receives approximately 49% of the total solar energy on earth. The lack of access to conventional electricity, a major issue for the continent, has presented an opportunity as it lends itself to the rapid deployment of solar.

Startups, like our portfolio company, SolarNow, are taking advantage of the the falling cost of solar panel technology that has made solar increasing accessible in Africa. Pay-as-you-go solutions are popping up all over the continent – and other emerging markets – with the potential to reach individuals living beyond the grid with limited cash on hand. These African solar startups are proving to be attractive to investors, securing millions of dollars in funding to scale their businesses. Solar is proving to be a major opportunity not only for African startups, but for the development of the continent as a whole.

Energy, A Field of Opportunity for Africa on AllAfrica

According to the African Development Bank, “Reliable and affordable energy supply is key to generating the broad based and inclusive economic growth needed to make major inroads into poverty.” Their recent report, Development Effectiveness Review 2014 Energy, examines challenges and opportunities in providing affordable and sustainable energy to African citizens.

Sun in the Sky and Jugaad in my Pocket for a Business Model Based on Empowerment by Francesca Ferrario on Social Story

Paul Needham, Co-founder of our portfolio company, Simpa Networks, was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of the people of rural Tanzania who were investing in small solar panels and using them to start small businesses. These innovative entrepreneurs showed Needham that selling solar power was not only profitable, but also that they village found more value in the services the solar panel provided then in the ownership of the panel itself.

Solar has scaled significantly in Sub-saharan Africa, but Paul noticed that the same had not happened in rural India, even though the majority of the population is living in poverty, with little or no access to electricity. He explained, “distributed solar power hasn’t scaled up in rural India for two reasons: first, because the upfront costs are too high, and second, because traditional lenders are uncomfortable underwriting the technology and consumer payment risks.”

Paul sought to change this, and ultimately developed a business model for Simpa Networks which led it to break through the Indian BoP market. Today, Simpa reaches 9,000 customers, generating over 100MW of clean energy and is useful to over 45,000 beneficiaries.

New Here?
▪Learn about what we do.
▪Follow us on Twitter.
▪Like us on Facebook.
▪Join us on LinkedIn.
▪Add us on Google+.
▪Sign up for our mailing list.
▪Catch up on past Weekly Reviews.

Big Data and the Internet of Things: Weekly Review 5/4 – 5/8

The “data revolution” that the world is experiencing along with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), will change the way the world addresses challenges, how businesses run, and how consumers interact with products. We are on the verge of a revolution that will affect all industries and societies alike. Below are recent articles highlighting developments in data and IoT.

IoT Offers Bright Future, Says Harvard Professor by Jon Marcus on PTC

According to Michael Porter, Harvard Business School economic, the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way consumers interact with productions and alter the way companies do business in ways that are not yet fully understood or appreciated. This means that companies will have to radically adapt. The payoff, he says, is the potential for an economic boom after a decade of slow business and job growth. “After an era for the last 10 years in which there have been incremental [business] improvements, all of a sudden we have an explosion of new capabilities,” Porter said. “We have an opportunity here for a very bright era. The question is, how do we capitalize on that?”

The Road to Better Data by Johannes Jutting on devex

There has been much debate over the “right” number of Sustainable Development goals in recent months. But this debate misses a key point: that no matter how many goals and targets are agreed on, if we can’t measure their real impact on people, societies and the environment, they risk becoming irrelevant. Adequate data is crucial in identifying societies’ problems that planning and policymaking will need to address. Despite the “data revolution” that the world is experiencing, blank spaces persist in the statistics of many developing countries.

Despite these challenges, dramatic progress is possible, even in the poorest of countries. There is a growing awareness of the challenges faced and a growing willingness to do something about it. More than 30 developing countries have signed up to “Data Declaration”, stating that “the time is now to bring the data revolution to everyone, everywhere. Additionally, new technologies are helping to revolutionize the world of data. Developed and developing countries alike are on the cusp of a huge change in how they collect and disseminate data. With the aid of clear planning, and innovative new technologies, we are on the road to better data globally.

Attack of the Big Data Startups on CB Insights

Big data is everywhere. It is being used in everything from HR to finance to agriculture, changing the way that businesses run. Below is a mapping of areas that big data companies are attacking and notable players from each, including our portfolio company, OnFarm.

Big-Data-Map2

OnFarm: Smart, Connected Applications Maximize Agricultural Business Performance (Case Study) by Tony Rizzo on Blue Hill Research

The Internet of Things opens many new doors, especially for startups with innovative ideas. IoT provided our portfolio company, OnFarm, to transform farm management. This case study explores how OnFarm utilized IoT to maximize agriculture business performance.

New Here?