One of the fastest ways for a society to leapfrog its economic development is through technology. We saw this in China, where traditional landlines that were communally shared quickly gave way to mobile tech before landline infrastructure were even built. Grandmas manning telephone stations on the street with long phone cords paralleled youth riding bicycles while talking on their cellphones. However, the commercial and consumer uses for tech can be very unique and require well-thought out planning and product development.
Companies such as our friends at Ensibuuko, a Ugandan mobile solution startup that was funded by Kiva, provide local farmers with critical support to handle the mundane tasks of everyday business: Farmers are able to interact directly with buyers while receiving up-to-date market and financial information. What we particularly like about Ensibuuko and like-minded social enterprises around the world is their focus on collaboration with end-users. Rather than taking solutions from other markets and trying to adapt to often very different local use cases, this ground-up method of development and local leadership both honors the opinions of indigenous communities and builds up the intellectual assets and skillsets of native enterprises.
However, we recognize that outside investment and partnership from international entities are critical for a healthy and effective economic system to flourish. As JLee and MLo travel through communities throughout Africa, Asia and Europe, we hope to bring different case studies of innovative tech solutions and public-private partnership models that are creating real impact in alleviating poverty, bridging gaps that hold back economic development, and empowering people to live full, inspired lives with dignity.