Want to expand your micro-business in Indonesia? There may soon be an app for that.
Last week eBay announced its collaboration with the Grameen Foundation, a global non-profit group, to design and launch two mobile technology solutions in the Indonesian province of West Java.
The 18-month-long project, which officially started last month, is a branch off of the Mobile Microfranchising Initiative — an existing Grameen effort that provides mobile phones to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries.
This new initiative, said eBay Head of Global Social Innovation Lauren Moore, will aim to produce both a mobile transaction system and mobile marketplace for the existing entrepreneurs and community members in the region.
“We (eBay) held a competition last year, called the Opportunity Project, where we looked for some of the best ideas around the world,” she said. “Grameen proposed this idea to us of creating mobile applications for small business owners in Indonesia.”
The original Grameen project, she said, focused on women — around 10,000 of them — in local villages who were selling air time minutes for cell phones. Seeing the potential from that, they saw an opportunity to expand in the community what they were able to do by creating mobile applications.
Now, for the next year and a half, Grameen designers and volunteers will work closely with community members of the region to develop a mobile banking system.
The first part — the mobile transaction application — will allow entrepreneurs to track their performance, deposit balances and check cash flows. The mobile marketplace, then, will allow for the purchasing of products and services to a universal shopping ground.
“If you think about these folks from rural communities, they don’t really have access to any kind of communication,” Moore said. “If I had something to sell, whether it’s a service I’m providing or some small product, there’s no way for people in the surrounding communities to know about that. So this will give an opportunity to those entrepreneurs to be able to post a product or service that they want to sell.”
But it won’t just be limited to entrepreneurs.
“Farmers are now able to access information about weather conditions and market pricing for their cash crops, the unemployed can search for job opportunities electronically, and the unbanked can engage in secure financial transactions,” Moore wrote in an article she published, along with Grameen Foundation president Alex Counts, in the Huffington Post. “In this way, mobile phones are empowering users to gain control of often volatile financial conditions, particularly in informal markets.”
Surprisingly, she said, 75% of the world’s cell phone users live in developing countries. In Indonesia, 80% of the population owns cell phones. What’s missing, she said, is a way to integrate all of that towards the economy.
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“A lot of technology companies are really pushing for where mobile’s going,” she said, “so the idea is that we would take that mobile innovation and say we understand the huge opportunity in the developing world to build tools for mobile that will dramatically impact these people’s lives and communities forever.”
Moore said she expects the project to increase the number of Indonesian micro-entrepreneurs from 10,500 to 60,000 in just three years.
“We ultimately want to bring opportunity and technology to places that just haven’t experienced it before — with the success of this program in Indonesia, there’s a huge opportunity for bringing it to other communities.”
Click here for more information about the project.
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