There is an untapped potential for information and communications technology (ICT) in providing access to education, health, agriculture and financial services to the poorest populations, according to a new study released today.
The study, Leveraging ICT for the Base of the Pyramid, which was sponsored by Ericsson and France Telecom’s Orange, among other parties, examines 280 initiatives in Asia, Latin America and Africa that have used ICT to provide services to the poor within four main areas: education, health, agriculture and financial services.
Karin Svingby, Director Corporate Responsibility, Projects and Partnerships, and Ericsson’s representative on the study, says one of its conclusions that is of particular interest to Ericsson is that there is an untapped potential for developing ICT services using sustainable business models within education and health.
"The study shows that the majority of successful initiatives using ICT are in the agricultural and financial fields, which align with services that Ericsson has launched recently, such as Mobile Money and Mobile Auction," Svingby says. "This also means there are big opportunities for us to support the development of business models using ICT in health and education."
The Connect-To-Learn initiative is an example where Ericsson has designed a model for scale and sustainable business using innovative cloud-computing solutions to provide ease of use and a cost-effective service to support children – and girls in particular – through secondary education.
The study, which was conducted jointly by consulting firm Hystra and social-entrepreneur community Ashoka, looked at existing projects to understand how to build successful ICT services for the poorest of the poor.
One of the conclusions was that for a service to be successful there needs to be a business model in place to demonstrate its value. "There are costs to delivering, maintaining and updating any service," Svingby says. "If those costs are not covered, the service will not be sustainable in the long term."
An important factor for scaling a successful service, according to the study, is to create public partnerships. "Local social entrepreneurs understand the needs and know how to approach the issue," Svingby says. "ICT corporations, on the other hand, provide the competence in leveraging and deploying globally."
Svingby says the study has reaffirmed Ericsson’s practice of having a sound business model in place in order to run a successful ICT service. "Health and education services that reach the world’s poor can do good and be profitable at the same time," she says. "You have to develop a sound business model to be scalable and sustainable over time."
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