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Open Internet Standards 15 April 2015

E-Entrepreneurship on the Open Internet

Michael Kende
By Michael KendeFormer Chief Economist, Internet Society

Today the World Economic Forum published their Global Information Technology Report 2015. This year’s theme is “ICT for Inclusive Growth,” examining how developing and emerging economies are exploiting the potential of ICTs to drive economic transformation. We are proud to have contributed a chapter entitled ‘E-Entrepreneurship on the Open Internet’, in which we highlight the opportunities for innovation that are created by the Internet.  

The theme of our own first annual Global Internet Report was “Open and Sustainable Access for All” and one of the case studies was the example of an engineer in Togo who set out to build a cheap 3D printer. He was able to:

  • Download open source plans created on a collaborative platform;
  • Raise over 4000 Euros from complete strangers using a crowdfunding website; and
  • Use the abundant electronic waste being shipped to Africa from Europe and beyond.

The result was a 3D printer that could be built for 100 dollars, which he submitted to a NASA competition for a future Mars mission. It is impossible to imagine any part of this taking place without access to the open Internet, and such stories are taking place all over the world.

These stories epitomize the theme of inclusive growth, by democratizing entrepreneurship. Formerly, innovation largely took place in clusters, where the ingredients such as education, venture capital, skilled employees, and mentors, are all physically located in the same area. Silicon Valley is a prime example. While many countries and regions have tried to duplicate the success of Silicon Valley, none have emerged even to be commonly recognized as second largest. Further, even when successful, clusters exclude based on physical proximity, as well as gender, income, and education, to varying degrees, even for those in the cluster.

Our article points out that most, if not all, of the ingredients needed by entrepreneurs can now be found online. This includes tangible inputs like venture capital and computing capacity, along with less tangible ones, such as mentorship and collaboration. As a result, the possibilities for entrepreneurship are expanding beyond the traditional boundaries of high-tech clusters to include anyone with access to the open Internet.  Furthermore, this online innovation can enable entrepreneurs to surmount barriers not only of physical location, but also barriers of education, gender, and physical disability. 

As the Internet grows and encompasses an increasing number of people, innovation becomes more inclusive because more of us will be able to create new enterprises. At the same time, the results of innovation become more inclusive, because many entrepreneurs focus their efforts on filling market gaps close to home. This helps to create more locally relevant content, making the Internet more interesting for people in those countries, creating new users and a sustainable cycle of inclusive growth and innovation based on access to the open Internet.

If you’re interested in reading the entire Global Information Technology Report 2015 you can find it on the World Economic Forum’s website.

Photo: "Home Office - My Desk - Old 2005" © 2005 Photographer CC BY-NC 2.0
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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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