Business Models for the Last Billion

Study after study has demonstrated that increasing Internet access improves economic growth while also creating new opportunities in education, gender empowerment, and transparent governance. Recognizing the value that digital inclusion brings, the newly adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set universal Internet access as an explicit target (#9c) and highlight the need to strengthen the use of information and communications technologies for women’s empowerment (#5b). 

Unfortunately, the dividends of the digital economy have not been equitably distributed; more than four billion people do not access the Internet around the world. The so-called digital divide is particularly acute in rural areas in the least developed countries (LDCs), where low household incomes and high infrastructure investment costs conspire to deter investment in network connectivity, leaving communities and local economies cut off. 
This report describes the emergence of innovative, low-cost business models that can enable the world’s lowest income consumers to participate in the emerging digital economy. In preparing it, SSG Advisors sought the input of over 100 industry and technology leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, government officials and development practitioners, using a combination of interviews and highly interactive small-group sessions held in five global locations. 

To frame the conversation, SSG asked these Internet connectivity leaders to consider how a member of the world’s poorest billion, able to spend only an average of $2.25/month on connectivity, might be able to afford Internet access and what business models and technology solutions could make this happen. By focusing on the most extreme use case, this assessment sought out technologies and business models that were competitive enough to serve even the most challenging markets.

The input participants provided both surprised and inspired this report’s authors: there is an enormous potential market, a range of novel uses of existing technologies, and a host of new innovative business models, all of which create great potential for connecting the most challenging markets sustainably and profitably.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 6:30pm

Last updated: November 02, 2016