The Bridge Africa

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The Bridge Africa

Cameroon
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Maxine is working to remove the information barriers that have impeded co-operation among businesses and contributed to low levels of productivity in the citizen, business and public sectors in Cameroon and across Africa. Through her web-based platform, she works to promote small businesses, push for improved digital infrastructure and services and ultimately, fuel economic and civil sector development by bridging the digital divide between Cameroon and other African countries.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Africa, today, there exists a digital divide between those countries that have invested in digital infrastructure and service provision, and those that have not. Countries, like Cameroon, have yet to catch up in the race to digitize; businesses, CSOs and consumers suffer, as a result. Economic development and productivity are hindered by the high costs of internet service provision, website development and hosting, and computers. Just over one percent of the population has access to internet, and these individuals depend on a small number of expensive and unreliable services providers. Household internet costs around $68 per month on average, which is unaffordable for a country where 48 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Most internet solutions do not cater to low band widths and, thus, there are few services that cater to low and middle income groups (the vast majority of the population). Added to this is the very low level of digital literacy among the business community in Cameroon. This contributes to a very serious digital divide on the continent (i.e. there is a lack of useful content about Cameroonian businesses on the internet, in comparison to more digitally advanced countries).

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Maxine has created an internet platform to help small businesses and CSOs develop their own websites and connect to other organizations and consumers. Consumers that are searching for information on businesses and CSOs can connect to this platform at a very low cost by using their mobile phones to send and receive information over a SMS. Maxine's goal for the poorest users of the internet is for them to have access to information on businesses and CSOs at the price of a SMS. Her goal for small business owners and civil society actors is for them to develop, manage and use websites to gain visibility for their businesses or causes, and provide information to individuals looking to learn more. In order to do this, she offers training in website development and management and two-way communication to a growing number of websites that she hosts on her platform for government, business and citizen groups. She is publicizing the need for low cost access and the benefits of bridging the digital divide through the regular television and radio shows that she hosts. Maxine's system-wide goal is to introduce competition among Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to lower costs and to demonstrate the benefits of digitally-based businesses to a growing number of small business owners, non-profits and public agencies seeking to use this medium to share information and improve organizational transparency. The key to this is the reducing the cost of access to the internet to the low cost of an SMS and combining that with an effective outreach strategy. She has been able to create a communication infrastructure that is accessible to businesses and other actors across Cameroon and beyond. The website is accessible to phone subscribers, internet users and SMS users. She is also educating trainers to help people understand the system, so that they can upload and periodically update their own information.