I encountered a strange dilemma while perusing the website of Mobile for Good. Charged with doing a write-up of the organization, I quickly realized that the folks at M4G have already done a great job of describing what they do. As a result, I’ve just reproduced text from the website here, and added a few of my own comments for good measure.
Mobile for Good (M4G) is a social franchise project designed to use mobile phone technology to help alleviate poverty and improve the lives of people in the developing world. It delivers vital health, employment and community content via SMS on mobile phones in order to inform and empower disadvantaged individuals and help bridge the ?digital divide?–the widening technology gulf which exists between rich and poor countries.
The content services are targeted at Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) consumers–generally defined as the low income segment of the population that lives on less then two USD a day. However, the business concept also includes premium services aimed at higher income groups, which allows services offered to the BOP to be subsidized.The content services include:
- Kazi560, a job information service aimed at blue-collar workers and employers. It offers jobs in more than 40 categories from carpenters to secretaries
- Health Tips, which is designed to provide subscribers with useful tips on various pertinent health issues.
- MyQuestion, a service that allows customers to anonymously ask HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer related questions and receive answers.
- Her560, a lifestyle channel aimed at professional women, providing information on health, diet, fitness, fashion, family, finance, events, etiquette, motivation, romance and the home.
- The Community News service, which is distributed free to subscribers in Kibera, Kangemi, Kawangware, Mathare and Mukuru. It provides a channel for sending out information on events in the community.
The Mobile for Good project has already been implemented in Kenya via a project called OKN Mobile launched by One World UK (OWUK) in 2003, where it has been instrumental in helping more than a hundred people to find jobs every week. Additionally, the business has already broken even and has had over 70,000 people use its services. Over 60,000 have found employment through the job service, Kazi560. In addition, some employers have said that this is the only form of recruitment they are now using.
A social franchise model has been developed by OWUK to provide entrepreneurs with a package of tools including a generic business model, technical platform, marketing advice, links with local telecom companies, and ongoing consultancy, which will allow them to set up a M4G business in their country. The success of this pilot has driven plans to replicate the franchise in further countries across Africa and the rest of the developing world including Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Nepal.
Three things that strike me immediately about Mobile for Good are its use of a franchise model, touted by WRI’s report ?The Next Four Billion? as BoP-appropriate, its profitability, and its positive social impact. To the first point, you get three levels of cash generation for the price on one: one for the social franchisee who earns revenue from a business, one for the content provider, and one for successful job seekers who find a position. In terms of profitability, OWUK, the Kenyan pilot, has broken even in the four years since its launch. A three to four year break-even projection is commensurate with legitimate profit projections. This is definitely encouraging. Finally, the business model is BoP at its finest–low-income people paying for valuable services and thereby supporting a profitable business venture. It’s also worth noting that M4G’s corporate partners are heavy-hitters like Accenture, the Vodafone Group Foundation, and Novatech. Vodafone, as you well know, is not new to BoP telephony, as a cursory search on nextbillion.net reveals.
In any case, the M4G team is currently looking for potential franchisees and investors, so please contact Brett Jorgenson at britt.jorgensen [at] oneworld –dot– net for more information.