Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana | World Wide Web Foundation

Summary

The Story

Challenge/Opportunity:

Since more than a decade, the concept of using the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the Web and Internet to help improving development challenges such as the Millennium Development Goals has largely grown within international organizations, development agencies etc. However, till recently, lack of network, and devices in the hand of people has prevented the realization of these promises.

Now, the situation is changing, and the mobile wave is now offering a new opportunity to deploy services and content on a platform already accessible to billions of people. But here again, while the proof of concept has largely been demonstrated (see e.g. The Impact of Cell Phones on Grain Markets in Niger), the full potential of mobile as a service delivery platform needs to realized. Indeed, there is still very few content and services available.

Like many other organizations, the Web Foundation has been investigating how to solve this issue on content. One way to cope with this challenge is to try to understand what could be useful content for people, and develop related services. But it is very hard for people living in Paris, London, Washington or Tokyo to understand and know what a farmer in Ghana, or a truck driver in Kenya would really need to improve his condition.

The other option, which is our approach with this project, is to try to combine the strengths of Africa, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, with the power of mobile phones. The entrepreneurial spirit in developing countries is really amazing, and can be observed everyday in all countries. But for now, this spirit is not applied to mobile services. We believe that this is mostly due to a lack of awareness on the openness of the platform, the lack of technical and business expertise and the lack of knowledge on existing tools and simple methodologies to create content and services and generate income. By enabling local organizations to deliver such expertise to local entrepreneurs, we believe that it will be possible to create an ecosystem that will lead to the creation and launch of new mobile services filling social and/or business needs of the local market, and bringing positive socio-economic impact on all the segments of the population, from the rich urban class till the underprivileged rural communities.

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:

Leveraging local creativity, the  power of the Web, and the power of mobility

The aim of the Web Foundation is to provide training and tools around mobile and Web technologies that are particularly relevant to the developing countries context, and that will enable local entrepreneurs to launch new services to provide locally relevant content and applications to the country and give them a stream of revenue.

The technologies in the scope of this initiative are those accessible from mobile phones, and which do not require advanced programming skills. The training will also include a segment on business models, and methodologies to deploy services, and build sustainable businesses.

We will focus on building a set of mobile training labs in three different countries and work with local stakeholders (operators, governments, NGOs, etc.) to ensure that the local environment is appropriate for deployment of services (regulatory environments, easy-to-use revenue sharing models such as e.g. application stores, etc.).

Finally, the initiative aims to make the mobile training labs self-sustainable and auto-extensible. The idea with the development of these labs is to generate a critical mass that will then auto-extend through the availability of free and open source training content, the deployment of online platform(s) to create synergies between the different labs, and between the entrepreneurs themselves, and the availability of a lab setup methodology and process.

Mobile Entrepreneurs in Ghana is running under the generous support of Vodafone. In December 2010, Mobile Web Ghana, the local association was announced, marking the official launch of the initiative. The first training happened in Frebruary 2011.