A year ago I was involved in setting up an exciting new relationship for Vodafone, when we donated money to the Web Foundation and joined the founders circle.

One of the projects that resulted from this new relationship is the Mobile Entrepreneurs in Africa.

In June I had the great pleasure of visiting Accra in Ghana to help set up the project and create the link to Vodafone Ghana.  We had a hectic schedule of meetings with poeple from many organisations and after 4 days came to the conclusion that we really needed to bring together the mobile community in Accra and then we would be able to promote the training course for mobile web entrepreneurs.

The community is called Mobile Web Ghana and is being run by Florence Toffa.

Mobile Web Ghana

Mobile Web Ghana

The project has now moved on and we are about to start the first training course on 24th February 2011.

I am hoping to attend the last part of the course and meet the candidates and discuss their ideas for new businesses based around the mobile web.  We are planning to follow their journey and report on how they get on.




As part of our work to encourage Social Entrepreneurs to use mobile technology, the Betavine Team has created a new section to its website – the Betavine Resources wiki, see below.

The new Betavine Resources Wiki

The idea is to collect a wide range of resources that Social Entrepreneurs, in fact any entrepreneurs, can use to create businesses based on mobile technology.  There are 3 main sections to the resources wiki:

  • User Experience – a key to success of any new services, it has to be easy to understand and use
  • Business – how can mobile applications and services be commercialised? what models exist?
  • Technology – an overview and explanation of mobile technologies

Another key element of this resources wiki is the regional resources – helping developers in specific regions of the world to connect with local resources.  We are currently looking for champions to help us in each region / country.

We are keen to promote success stories of where mobile technology has been successfully deployed to create a social and sustainable business – please get in touch if you know of any such examples.

The wiki is open to all and it would be great to get your feedback on it.

Upcoming event:  Mobile Technology for Social Entrepreneurs

Personal Crowdsourcing

March 31, 2010

The Betavine Social Exchange project was launched over a year ago …see the project approval post from 28th March 2009.  The project has met with great enthusiasm when I have presented it in public and also when I speak to people face to face.  I have made a few good contacts via phone which then get followed up with face to face meetings.

The Social Exchange website was launched in October 2009 and saw a flurry of activity around the launch events.  I have also seen activity around follow on events and calls.  The online activity has mainly been stimulated by these face to face, personal relationships.

Is crowdsourcing personal?

I know there are many examples of online crowdsourcing sites that perhaps do not have off-line activities …but one thing that I have leant on Betavine is the need to create relationships.  We have run a number of off-line events e.g. Betavine Beers, Betavine parties and participated in lots of event e.g. Over the Air, WWW Annual Conference … developers days.   It is these off-line meetings that create the relationships that last and bring focus and dedication to the crowdsourcing cause.

The recent Cape Town Dev Day in March was a great success in terms of bringing focus on the Social Exchange challenges but now the task is to maintain that momentum.

Cape Town Dev Day - meeting developers

A combination of off-line activities coupled with an online presence seems to be the best approach.  The other key thing I learnt in Cape Town is the importance of linking up with community “leaders” on the ground – thanks to Marlon Parker and Rlabs for their support.

Mobile Social Entrepreneurs

January 26, 2010

Where are you?

I am keen to find examples of social entrepreneurs that use mobile technology – they could be called “mobile social entrepreneurs” .. but where are they?

I am not talking about social entrepreneurs who use a mobile phone to make things happen or use a mobile broadband dongle to run a business.  I am talking about social entrepreneurs who create businesses that are socially beneficial and based on mobile technology.

Mobile Social Entreprenuers and BSX

The example that I often hear quoted is the fisherman who accesses fish prices in different local ports via a mobile phone service, in order to set his course back from a fishing trip and maximise his income.  I guess the person who set up and is running this “fish price service” is a mobile social entrepreneur.  This story and others are featured on the EPROM website page – Why Africa?

There are many example where mobile technology is being used for social change – see mobileactive.org but it is harder to find examples of where mobile technology is the basis for social entrepreneurship.  Any examples, please let me know.

My first blog of 2010 has been inspired by the announcement of the Nokia $1,000,000 Growth Economy Venture Challenge.   Details of the challenge can be found here: calling all innovators.   Nokia CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, made the announcement at CES 2010 in Las Vagas, and said that it was possible to do good business and do good at the same time.  That does sound like social entreprenuership to me!

The Betavine Social Exchange was set up for that very same purpose, bringing together community groups with needs and those that understand mobile technology that can help solve the need in a sustainable way i.e. building a local business.  Our somewhat more modest Chembe Challenge, launched just before Christmas, focusses on a specific issue, personal security in poor urban areas, and is offering funding for local entrepreneurs to build a sustainable business whilst offering a valuable service.

We hope to be launching new challenges in the near future that address different areas of need but all will seek to support local enterpreneurs to develop and deploy sustainable solutions for local markets.

There seems to be a lot of work going on in the area of “Mobile Technology & Social Entrepreneurs”, see crowdtalk on delicious – just started but building more links every day.  I spoke with Vincent d’Allant from the Skoll Foundation recently about Social Edge,  and he was keen to find more examples of where mobile technology had been used by social entrepreneurs.  I am sure there are lots of examples and with Nokia giving away a million dollars I am sure we will see more examples in the near future.

The key thing for the Betavine Social Exchange is that the solutions are sustainable, after the intial injection of prize money.

Image by DavidDennisPhotos.com
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Crossing the Digital Divide

December 14, 2009

I recently read a great blog post by Tomi Ahonen on the “The Digital Divide in Numbers”  – great post, getting the numbers sorted really does bring the whole issue to life.

Tomi clearly points out the disparity between the technology adoption in industrialised countries and that in developing countries.  However, there is a silver lining .. the mobile phone.

The figures presented are staggering and really put into context why mobile technology is supporting so much social change in developing countries.  It is the only technology widely available and in peoples hands.

One of the issues that the digital divide raises for the Betavine Team is how to access and promote the work we are doing with the Betavine Social Exchange.  The BSX is a website that is attempting to reach and support local communities in the developing world with their ICT related challenges by bringing them together with mobile developers and local entrepreneurs.  This presents a challenge in terms of the penetration of PCs and internet access.  However, we are targetting local NGOs as community partners on the understanding that they do have PCs and internet access.

We are currently considering the feedback we have got in terms of low bandwidth support and mobile support.  With limited resources we have to focus on those things that will really help to get the concept working.

One key aspect to the BSX is being able to support local entrepreneurs in creating mobile related businesses … the statistics clearly point out that there is a massive opportunity for mobile based services in developing countries.

BSX – Online Feedback

November 13, 2009

We’re keen to user test Betavine Social Exchange, and by doing so to improve the site. Webnographer have set up a 15 minute test to help us do just this, and are offering a chance to win a prize. Tell them what you think about the Social Exchange by participating in an easy online process, which when completed could win you a £50 or £25 Amazon voucher. This web page explains all you need to know:   http://www.webnographer.com/do/betavine/socialexchange/sw-bp