Souktel - Mobile Phone Employment Service

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Souktel - Mobile Phone Employment Service

Palestinian Territory
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Souktel’s mobile phone JobMatch service helps women find work by SMS: From any phone, users create SMS mini-CVs with basic data on their skills, location, etc. CVs are sent by mobile to a central database, which hundreds of employers search daily. Employers can also create similar mini job-ads and post them on the same database, so job-seekers can search these jobs from their own handsets.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

mobile phones can be used to allow women apply and access to information about jobs not easily accessible elsewhere?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the 21st century in particular, lack of access to technology is a major barrier to obtain reliable job information. For young women, leaving the home to access Internet to search for jobs is even tougher, as most public Internet cafes are dominated by men, and computers in the home are uncommon in rural or low-income areas. As such, women have a greater chance than men of remaining unemployed, making them vulnerable to unwanted marriages.

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

Simple, accessible information was the answer—and that mobile phones could be the medium, because nearly every person has one. Mohammad established the social enterprise Souktel Inc. in 2006, to allow users to leverage their mobile phone-based SMS service to receive and send information concerning employment opportunities. From any mobile phone, job seekers create SMS “mini-CVs” that include basic data on their skills and location. From the other side, employers create similar mini-job ads and post them to the same database, enabling job seekers to search these opportunities from their own phones.
Impact: How does it Work

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In 2007 Kilany and his team launched a pilot program. Within a year, over 40 percent of service users had found work/internships through Souktel (compared to a 25 percent success rate at traditional HR firms); 75 percent+ of employers using the service had cut hiring time and costs by over 50 percent. Since its founding, employers have reported that Souktel has helped them reduce time and costs involved in sourcing employees by 50 percent. Palestinian job seekers have also confirmed that their income has increased by US$400+ after finding jobs through the service. In early 2009 Kilany expanded this service beyond the Middle East to Somalia, where over 6,000 job seekers used the mobile service to find work with close to 100 major employers, through a service run in partnership with the national mobile network Telesom, and the U.S.-based non-profit, Education Development Center.
Team

Founding Story

Kilany struggled to find a job despite having a degree in IT. He took on small jobs, such as a cleaner and a waiter, but all these were short-term and poorly paid. Kilany spent the last of his savings and took a taxi to Ramallah where upon pure luck he landed a job at Paltel Telecom Group. Kilany describes himself as one of the lucky few who was able to find a job. As a result of his experience with unemployment, he decided to use his IT background and knowledge to focus on helping other youth find jobs so that others would not suffer the way he and his family did. This gave him the drive to create Souktel to help those in his community and beyond.
About You
Organization:
Souktel - Mobile Phone Employment Service
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Lana

Last Name

Hijazi

Country
Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Souktel - Mobile Phone Employment Service

Organization Phone
Organization Address
Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Innovation
What makes your idea unique?

The only service of its kind in the Middle East/East Africa, Souktel has surpassed all previous efforts to create equitable labor markets for women--by using basic technology to build a fresh, new solution that links marginalized job-seekers with work. Through its simple but powerful technology, Souktel levels the playing field of access to job market information for the first time, breaking cycles of female poverty and unemployment by narrowing the “digital divide” in developing countries: In the past, job data was restricted to a privileged, mostly male minority who had access to Internet, landlines, and elite social network. Now, Souktel bridges these gaps by enabling anyone with a basic mobile phone search thousands of jobs, and by enabling employers to tap into new labor pools that were previously unreachable (like rural women, or female refugees). Through simple mobile technology, we empower communities to discover that they have more choices and resources than ever before. Now, better market information lets more people find jobs/staff. More equitable ‘job-matching’ leads to more income for needy families, and to more productivity for businesses that need qualified workers. The end result is prosperous communities that have greater equality of gender and income.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Souktel has created far-reaching, measurable impact that continues to grow across the developing world: Since its start, we’ve directly helped over 2,000 job-seekers find jobs or training that lead to income. These newly-employed workers have earned a combined $9.6 million/year in new income; with each worker supporting 5+ family members, an additional 10,000 people have benefited indirectly from Souktel technology. Today, we cover three continents, with a further 8,000 users accessing Souktel daily to find jobs/staff—and promoting greater gender equality in the labor market as a result.

This impact is best demonstrated through a personal story: Diaa’ is a typical Souktel Job Match user. In her 20s, she lives in the Qalandia refugee camp in Palestine. In college she studied computers, but right after she finished studies she had no job prospects. Coming from a refugee camp, her family had no connections among local employers; her university had no tips for her, and the newspaper had no job ads for entry-level posts. Qalandia also has few places for women to use Internet, so this made web searching impossible. Ultimately, Diaa’ knew that if she failed to find a job soon she would be married early like most young women her age, and her family would have wasted its investment in her education.

However, Diaa’ heard about Souktel from a friend, and signed up from her mobile phone (without needing web access). She stayed updated on job opportunities from inside her home, which was safer and made her family more comfortable. Soon after she signed up for our service, she found an IT and data entry job at a local company. It paid well, she got to use her computer skills, and she earned new respect in her community. Since Souktel’s start, Diaa’s story has become increasingly common among our users: Slowly but surely, we are helping bring more young women into the workforce, and this is creating large-scale social change.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Unemployment, poverty, and gender inequality—Souktel believes these problems all stem from a single source: A lack of good resources to help young people, and particularly young women, find work. In the developing world, a young woman’s best hope for social and economic advancement often hinges on her ability to find a job, earn income, and save money. But in most developing countries, labor markets are in chaos—not because there’s a shortage of job opportunities, but because there are no good information networks to help job-seekers and employers find each other: Web access is low, public/private resources are few, and infrastructure is poor. As a result, many women get trapped in cycles of joblessness—and fail to realize their full potential as positive role models, and productive community members.
However, a huge number of women have basic cell phone access,even in rural areas. Souktel leverages this technology to bridge job information gaps in developing-world job markets—by creating a first-ever mobile “job matching” service that helps women find work quickly, easily, and cheaply--reducing unemployment and improving gender equality.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?

Souktel is designed to be scalable and replicable: Our service needs minimal hardware, set-up time, or added cost to increase scope and reach. We leverage these conditions to expand our Job Match service into new countries each year—growing our service through three types of partnership: First, we work with national mobile networks to coordinate infrastructure and network coverage. Second, we work with women’s organizations, technical colleges, and universities to reach our target market of female job-seekers. Finally, we work with leading companies to build an active, credible pool of employers with jobs for female workers. We recognize that people in these new markets may doubt that phones are a good way for women to find jobs/staff—or fear that the system is too hard to use. Labor markets may also shrink/shift, making Souktel less relevant. In our work to date, we’ve addressed these issues: Our strong PR efforts show users how simple it is to get job market information by phone. Local demos & a support hotline offer a closeup look at Souktel and 24-hour help. A mix of jobs, apprenticeships, & training listings across sectors help insulate against market shocks.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

In 2009 we helped approximately 8,000 job-seekers and 200+ employers through our core JobMatch services. In 2010, as our new regional expansion programs move from piloting to full roll-out, we estimate that we’ll reach 20,000 new job-seekers in the Middle East, 10,000 job-seekers in North Africa, and 1,500 job-seekers in our Horn of Africa Somali Job Service. In 2011 and 2012, we`ll focus on new technology that can empower illiterate female job-seekers; in so doing, we believe we can double our outreach from 31,500 beneficiaries to over 60,000 beneficiaries in total. By leveraging existing partnerships with national Ministries of Education and local NGOs—which already run specialized programs for illiterate community members--we feel we can easily empower an additional 30,000+ people in need. In each of the next 3 years, working through our current partners will enable us to scale up our existing SMS service and new voice-recognition technology quickly, without a major additional investment of new resources. With the right allies and with modest funding we believe we can make a significant impact on women`s unemployment and poverty.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

No

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Approximately 150 words left (1200 characters).

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation

Souktel works closely with three types of partners--government, civil society, and the private sector--to achieve maximum impact. In each country of operation we partner directly with the Ministries of Labor and Education to harmonize our service with national job creation plans. In the civil society sector, we work closely with NGOs to ensure that our service also reaches the “less reachable” female job-seekers outside the education system. We also work directly with village and town councils; we encourage local leaders to present Souktel to the community as ‘their service’. Finally, we work closely with private sector organizations--to build a strong cadre of employers who will post jobs through the service and hire job-seekers. In each country, we start by targeting sector leaders. When a company with international brand value, like Deloitte or Ernst and Young, publicly commits to posting jobs on our service, other employers follow suit. We also enter into partnership agreements with private sector association. These entities promote the Souktel Job Match service to their member companies (who typically number in the hundreds), and encourage them to post jobs on our service.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Souktel is a social enterprise: While we’re a non-profit by nature, we cover almost all of our running costs through corporate-style revenue generation. Job-seekers pay a modest premium SMS fee to search job ads or post their mini-CVs; employers pay higher fees to post jobs and search CVs. Through this model, we earn a net average of $1/month per job-seeker and a net average of $10/month per employer. With 8,000 job-seekers and 200 employers, current net income has been roughly $10K/month since mid-2008—enough to cover running costs (office space, servers, IT/outreach staff). Any surplus revenue finances R&D and new market expansion; we also look to foundation/government funders for grants to support us in these areas. We believe this social enterprise model is both innovative and extremely successful: Most NGOs in our region rely on donations and grants, and spend much of their resources trying to acquire more money to stay afloat. Souktel, in contrast, earns income to support our running costs by directly doing our core work: matching people with jobs. This gives us regular, reliable income that will continue to flow in over time—unlike a grant that has a fixed end date.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

My own personal experience with unemployment motivated me to launch this project: I want to make sure no youth suffers from poverty and joblessness like I did. Growing up, my family made huge financial sacrifices so that I could go to university. But when I graduated with a business degree, it was impossible to find a job. The pressure on me was huge: I knew my family’s last savings were gone, but I had no idea how to find work. I had no future, no options, and no way to link up with employers. Finally, I took my only savings and went to Ramallah, our main city. I searched for work for many months, but I was from a small town and knew nobody. Then by luck I found some work at a new telecom company. Over time, this turned into a real job with wages I could send home. But I’m one of the lucky few: There are millions of youth with brains and energy, but no way of finding good employment. As a result, I decided to use my business and telecoms knowledge to help other youth find work. I joined together with other Palestinians (and Canadians living in Palestine), and led them to design a simple, cheap and accessible technology. Now Souktel has become the social innovation that thousands of people use today, and I feel I’m helping address poverty and unemployment in our region--so that soon my own story won’t be a common one.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

I am a simple but passionate person who has been profoundly impacted by my journey leading Souktel. Knowing that I am able to give back to my community, that I am able to help other women find jobs—so they can in turn be productive members of society gives me a lot of pride. It is like “paying it forward” – I help to empower someone who will in turn have a positive impact on their family and community and will in turn help someone else and so on. I feel like Souktel truly is one of the catalysts for creating hope among women in the developing world. This idea, the ability to help others in a profound and sustainable way is a great source of inspiration for me. I also believe that Souktel has deeply impacted my own personal philosophy. To see something that started off just as a simple idea, grow into something real and tangible has had a huge impact on my life. It has taught me the value in perseverance, in creating a strong work ethic, and in forging strong relationships. It has inspired me to keep reaching higher, to set my goals to a level that I never though attainable. This experience has been a key turning point in my life.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information
ICRW
Does your project address any of the following barriers to women’s technology access and use?

Social norms, Economic or institutional constraints.

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how.

Souktel focuses deliberately on helping women overcome social and economic barriers and find jobs, since women are often the most marginalized and excluded in the developing countries where we work: Traditional families often don’t allow women to search for jobs in person, and Internet cafes are usually dominated by men—leaving female job-seekers with few resources for finding work, and with a greater chance than men of remaining unemployed (and entering into unwanted early marriages). We aim to overcome these barriers by giving women a safe way to search for work from the comfort of their homes, or from anywhere they wish. Our innovation also helps women-led small businesses: They use our service to find staff more quickly, cheaply and safely. Most female-run businesses don`t have time or cash to put large job ads in the newspaper. They need the right person for the job--fast. Our service lets them find staff from their mobile phone, so they don’t even need to leave their shop. This helps employers on “micro” level, and it helps women on a “macro” level too: More women-led businesses hiring more female workers means greater gender equity and greater economic growth.

Does your project involve women in one or more of the following stages of the technology lifecycle? Identification of the problem the technology will solve:

Technology design, Market research, Technology introduction, Technology training, Assessment and evaluation.

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how you will ensure women’s involvement in each relevant phase of the technology lifecycle.

In each country, Souktel starts all JobMatch roll-out by holding women-led focus groups at local technical colleges/women-serving NGOs, to let female job-seekers articulate their needs and identify key features they want to include in the service. We also consult with female leaders at colleges, NGOs, and employers to ensure the technology responds to the demands of all potential users. Then we initiate two parallel processes: Female software developer consultants hired from local marginalized communities develop the technology and begin testing it. Meanwhile, female private-sector outreach specialists recruit start-up employers to post the service’s first job-ads. Once the software and employers are ready, we roll out the service in selected communities, working with partners to hold demonstration sessions that show female job-seekers how the technology works. After 1-2 months of piloting we stage follow-up focus groups to hear users’ feedback on the technology, and make modifications. Then we launch the service widely and train women-led local partners on technology management and employer outreach, so that they can sustain the service in the long term.

If women are a focus of your project, how did this focus evolve?

The project focused on women from its conception..

Which type of women will your project reach directly?

Rural, Peri-urban, Urban, Low income, Middle income.

In what ways does your project team/leadership involve women?

It is led by a woman/women., It is led by a woman/women from a developing country., The core project team includes women., The core project team includes women from developing countries..

Has your organization formed any new partnerships in response to this challenge? If so, with what type/s of organization/s?

Multilateral/bilateral, Non-profit/NGO/community-based organization, For-profit, Government, Women's organization.

Has your project leadership had prior experience with the following?

Working with technologies.

Comments

Anuradha kumari's picture

Nice article .. Thanks for the post.

This is such an inspirational story and idea! I think it's so powerful when someone realizes that the opportunities that they may be given are so hard for many (especially women) to come by, and it becomes important to create more opportunities for others. Cell phone technology is the most innovative opportunity to spread education, information to the masses. For local women on the ground to be trained to use technological applications strategically creates boundless options- for employment, bettering families through commerce and communication and more innovation in this industry and in the Palestinian territories especially.

Bravo! I wish you much success in this endeavor!

kamjclau (not verified) /

This is a promising project to solve problems of unemployment and poverty among women. I like this innovative idea.

Congratulation!

Good project for Job seekers.

On May 27, 2010 the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers Women Tools Technology: Building Opportunities and Economic Power competition and would like to pass on the following feedback (listed below) for your entry. Thank you for applying and for your hard work in the field. We are excited to archive your entry to serve as a leading solution for the worldwide community of innovators. We wish you continued luck with your innovative, sustainable, and socially impactful initiatives.

All the best, The Changemakers Team

“This is a really interesting initiative where a highly educated population has not had this particular kind of opportunity. For this space and for this place this concept was really wonderful because it is focused on the need and the work that needs to get done.”

“The innovative aspect of the project is that it increases access in an area where people have had trouble getting employment because they don’t know about it or don’t have access to it. This initiative raises important issues of mobility, and may help bring access to men AND women in this particular region.”

- Changemakers Women Tools Technology: Building Opportunities and Economic Power Judges

labor markets need more funds to full fill their needs, good project

JobMatch work helps women hear process by SMS From any sound 220-701 users create SMS mini-CVs with canonic assemblage on their skills position etc. 220-701 CVs are transmitted by floating to a focal database which hundreds of employers explore daily.350-030 Employers can also create twin mini job-ads and flyer them on the self database, so job-seekers can activity these jobs from their own handsets.70-662

Rajeev Kumar's picture

Hi sounds good, Thanks for the following article.!

Jack Smith's picture

Nice project, good one.

J Thomson's picture

I guess this helps to remove empty hands in world. Good one,

Michel Lawrence's picture

Yeah this a unique project. Good one.

Danial Bell's picture

Sounds good. Thanks for the post.

Panther Anat's picture

Opaque system to a Transparent system. Great awaredee. Thanks for the article.

Alexter Cook's picture

Great work Mohammad and Lana , really great job.

Kareena D's picture

This leads a good role in Mobile Technology.

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