The Real Digital Divide

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The Economist cover story The Real Digital Divide cited research that suggests the mobile phone is the technology with the greatest impact on development. In contrast with the UN’s top-down approach to build ICT centers in the hope to close the “digital divide,” the wide spreaded mobile phones in developing countries enable people to close the divide themselves.

In a typical developing country, an extra ten phones per 100 people increases DGP growth by 0.6 percentage points. Farmers and fishermen use mobile phones to call the markets to get the best price for their produce. Small businesses use them to shop around for supplies. Mobile phones are used for cashless payments in Zambia and other African countries.

e-Mobilizer builds exactly on the concept of the pervasiveness of cellular infrastructure in developing countries. I think the effect of moible phone on development is just staring to unfold.

eBay Launch Online Classifieds

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These days, everything moves fast. Here we go: eBay launched the online classifieds websites in Canada, China, Germany, Japan, France, and Italy.

The company, named Kijiji, is a start-up within eBay by a small team of entrepreneurial employees. It builds local communities online and offers services from chatting about the best restaurants in the cities, trading, to looking for babysitters. It’s another version of Craig’s List International.

Although eBay’s stock fell today after the announcement, I believe that eBay is heading towards the right direction!

View from the Top

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At GSB monthly speaker serial, the Silicon Valley legend John Doerr of KPCB gave a talk about View from the Top. People asked “from the top of what?” He joked: obviously from the top of Sand Hill Road. I have heard John Doerr talk before, it’s always interesting to hear him again. John started by saying what makes a great venture – he emphased on the “greatness.” Here is his matrix:

  • A+ leadership and passionate founders
  • Committment to technology excellence
  • Large, rapidly growing and unserved markets
  • Team of talents

As a visionary who funded Netscape, Yahoo, Google, and many other great companies in the Silicon Valley, people naturally asked what he sees as the industrial and technology trends. Here is what on his list:

  1. Wi-Fi, wireless, handweb
  2. Entreprise secuirtya nd search
  3. Consumer content, services and search
  4. Open source
  5. Energy innovations
  6. Evidence-based EMR
  7. Personalized medicine
  8. Social entrepreneurship

I am particularly impressed that John Doerr, as a traditional venture capitalist, gave special attention to social entrepreneurship. The room was quiet when he talked about problem of global poverty and what we can do to solve the problem. I hope his talk inspired more young people devoting their lives to social entrepreneurship.

In the end, John Doerr recommended a list of books to read: 1) Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure; 2) The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living; 3) Inside Intuit: How the Makers of Quicken Beat Microsoft and Revolutionized an Entire Industry; 4) Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration.

e-Mobilizer Won e-Challenge

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e-Mobilizer won the first round of the BASES Entrepreneurship Challenge. This challenge is considered one of the world’s most prestigious business plan competition. I am very excited about this.

The e-Mobilizer service is a Web portal with a mobile interface that allows users to post their products and service information via cell phones to the Internet marketplace to engage in a sale.

The biggest problem facing micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries is the inability to access the larger public market and its market information. They do not have efficient channels to reach customers. This disadvantage creates a major obstacle that limits their potential, and often forces them into a life of hopelessness and poverty.

e-Mobilizer solves this problem by leveraging the existing cellular infrastructure to connect micro-entrepreneurs to the Internet marketplace through cell phones. The service empowers micro-entrepreneurs, mostly women, and helps them to grow their businesses and generate incomes to send their children to schools.

Just like micro-credit gives the poor people access to capital, e-Mobilizer gives them access to markets and information. It is a powerful mean to fight global poverty.

There were about 330 million cell phone users in China at the end of 2004, in contrast with 80 million Internet users The number of cell phone users is predicted to reach 550 million in China and more than 3 billion worldwide by 2008.

Shwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

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Pamela Hartigan, the Managing Director of the Shwab Foundation for Social Entreprenreurship, give a presentation about how the foundation supports some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

The Shwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is founded by Klaus Schwab, President and Founder of the World Economic Forum. It’s primary purpose is to build a network of the most outstanding social entrepreneurs and influence the world leaders with the alternative solutions for the world problems. It’s a pretty new initiative, but it’s getting some high profile media exposure and starting to create the awareness of the general public.

Pamela went through the selection process and gave the stories of the well known social entrepreneurs. She mentioned to create employment opportunities for the unemployed is critical as a social entrepreneurial endeavor – which is my project all about.