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


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 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.

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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:

Well, according to Plato is it “necessity”.

Whilst I was visiting the RLabs in Athlone, Cape Town, I came across this initiative – Cans4Skills from the charity BreadlineAfrica.

Shipping containers are being used to create a space for skills training e.g. plumbing and brickwork.  Another example of the fantastic ingeniuty seen in Africa where “necessity is the mother of invention” !


Cans4Skills - Plumbing

And here is what it looks like on the inside …


Cans4Skills - Plumbing, teacher and students

And another one …


Cans4Skills - brickwork

As I tell the story of the Betavine Social Exchange I get asked questions for clarification.  This really helps me to think through the story and make it clearer.  Here are some of the frequently asked questions which will end up in an FAQ on the website.

How do we keep challenges and solutions visible once the site has 100’s of users?

I got caught out by this question in Joburg!  We provide a good filter function on the challenge and solution pages so that you can filter by words used in challenge, region, partner or user tags.  This should help locate relevant challenges.

The fact that challenges are shown in reverse chronological order was mentioned and I was asked if regular updates to the challenge would keep it on the front page?  Yes, I think that could work but we need to consider more sophisticated solutions and maybe regular “mailshots” for unsolved challenges.

Do I have to link a solution to a challenge that is already on the site?

No. Solutions may be uploaded that are not linked to specific challenges.  This will allow a range of solutions to be uploaded and linked to challenges at a later date.  I hope we can have a large range of pre-existing solutions to select from.

What if there are several challenges that are very similar?

This may well happen and some challenges may look different but the underlying issues may be very similar.  At present we could link several challenges to the same solution.  In future we may add in a “similar to” button that gives a list of existing challenges and then similar challenges may be linked.

What mechanisms exist to publicise my challenge?

The Betavine Team are providing the BSX platform and general promotion.  A particular challenge could be promoted by a “tweet this” button which sends it out on the Betavine twitter feed to be re-tweeted by others.  We could also add in other mechanisms to make it easier to publicise challenges.

How do I start an off-line discussion around a particular challenge / solution?

At the moment you would need to give out an email address in a discussion forum.  In future we may have a direct messaging capability between registered Betavine members.

Will a challenge owner get notified when someone links it to a solution?

No, but we are planning to add this feature.

Who owns the IPR of particular solutions?

The creator / developer owns the IPR as is the case today on Betavine.  Once a challenge / solution pair has been created and it moves into the commercial discussion phase (off-line) then this is Business as Usual (BAU) for the local mobile operator or local businesses. Any commercial discussions on licence fees etc. will take place off-line.

Will all the software on BSX be open source?

No.  We will encourage software developers to select an open source licence e.g. GPL2, but it is up to the developer to decide.

I am sure there will be lots more questions posted soon.