The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Internet is the driving force behind lots many opportunities for individuals or groups who want to learn new things and put their knowledge to use to improve their lives. In developed countries like the ones participating in this competition these opportunities come naturally, but in developing countries like Ethiopia people have yet to see the chances that the world wide web can provide.
I’m well aware that the first thing people need in developing countries is food and safety and that Internet doesn’t come first when people die of starvation. But consider this old cliché: when you give a man a fish he will be hungry again tomorrow. Teach the man how to fish and he has food for the rest of his life. With this in mind I became convinced that the only way for Africa to catch up with the western civilization is to make a radical jump forward. This jump couldn’t be made until now because the Internet wasn’t mature enough in the past. However, with the coming of social media, the ever increasing user friendliness of the web and the increased simplicity of tablets and other devices Africa is finally ready to embrace the full potential of the internet.
With Internet for Africa, people can learn from each other, organize and take action together or just take the opportunity to educate themselves beyond the level of primary school. These opportunities will facilitate the jump forward needed. And this jump forward will eventually create equal opportunities for all the people in the world.
My business model consists of two phases. Phase 1: Setting up a project to Teach people in Africa the beneficial use of Internet. Phase 2: setting up a unique Internet service provider that resolves around making profit in a social and durable way. I will use this space to elaborate on how I intend to execute those phases and, most importantly, connect the two in one brand.
First of all I need at least one month for research and networking to find out which country is best suited for the project. Looking into possible government support and the involvement of tribal elders will be an important part of the research. Next I will start my company as a community. I will start gathering people who want to join my cause via social media platforms like twitter and Facebook, also to create a positive buzz around the project. I want to be as open as possible and share everything about my business with these people. Once a trusted bond is created (This should be made easier with good interactive marketing) it becomes possible to ask for volunteers for setting up a volunteer project. The project will consist out of 10 – 20 volunteers who will travel to a developing country in Africa. There they will set up Wifi hotspots in schools and villages and educate schoolteachers on how to get the most out of the internet. The schoolteachers can then start spreading this knowledge to their pupils. The education will consist out of creating email addresses for the people, showing them reliable and useful websites and showing them the possibilities of social media. I will travel with the volunteers to follow the proceedings and to manage the project. Besides my attendance there an elaborate briefing will be given to the volunteers beforehand, so they’ll know exactly what to do once they arrive in Africa. I will pay for all the expenses of the volunteers. In the next paragraph I will explain how I plan to get enough budget to do so.
Once it becomes clear that the volunteer project is a success it is time to launch phase two of my business plan: selling internet to the Netherlands. I want to create a commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP) using open source collaboration with my online community. The ISP will offer fast Internet that can compete with speeds of other connections in the Netherlands and will target a group aged between 18 and 28. The Internet services will be sold to homes and businesses for a price that isn’t much higher or lower than those of the competitors. However, this price will be more compelling because a small part of the income from Internet services will be spent on the volunteer project in Africa. After all, people and especially companies are glad to do a little good if it doesn’t cost them extra. It will give them a good feeling and more importantly: it’s very good for a company’s image. The project can be scaled up big once a steady cash flow is established, so that more volunteers can be sent out to more than one country at the same time.
But not all of the income will be used to cover the costs of my business; a small part of it (or so I hope) will be profit. Now this isn’t something I want to hide from the public. I want it to be a very open business and this goes for the profit as well. So what I want to say to my community and the consumers of the Netherland is that my business sells Internet services as prior activity with the Africa project as a side project. If I state this well enough, people will see a commercial business that has some very good causes. What I don’t want is that people will see a foundation that keeps a lot of money to itself.
In order to set up a successful ISP a part of the cable network owned by ‘KPN Telecom’ must be bought using investments (KPN is forced by law to sell parts of its cable network). I would need a small office and hire people to pick up the phone, but with the open source collaboration I won’t need much more than that. There are a lot of examples that this works and that such companies can grow at least as fast as any ordinary company. And this is where my solution to the stated problem makes a difference. My business model won‘t be a case of a business selling a service to the consumers. It will be a case of consumers (my community) selling a service to consumers. This creates trust and the project for Africa will create a willingness to buy. Now add a good helpdesk service and you have a real people’s brand. A brand that is young, friendly, open, fair and above all focused on giving. Giving the opportunities of Internet to Africa simply by browsing the web.