Entrepreneurs Come Out of the Webwork
Thursday, February 28, 2008
In parts of Africa it is not uncommon to see children playing on a merry-go-round near their schools. They are not just enjoying themselves, but are also helping to pump water: the energy created pumps clean water into a 2,500 litre tank at the rate of 1,400 litres an hour. This imaginative scheme, which has a website (playpumps.org) enabling people to see where the pumps are located, is a good example of appropriate technology. Given that water-related diseases are reckoned to be responsible for up to 80% of all sickness in the world, such projects could have a disproportionate effect on health. A thousand have been installed and Playpumps hopes to quadruple this by 2010 – though one wonders how they get children to play there long enough to make it work.
This is but one example of a surge of social entrepreneurship, albeit on a modest scale, that is happening on the web. It has coincided with the first signs of satiation with conventional social sites such as Facebook and MySpace, as reflected in last week’s Nielsen statistics. The web is a great place for collaboration among people around the world pooling their skills for the public good. The problem is that ventures don’t suddenly happen; there always has to be someone behind them to act as a catalyst. Enter the social entrepreneurs, who get things done.