Scaling Up Without Falling Short: Leveraging Mobile Tech for the Base of the Pyramid

Posted by EKStallings on Oct 19, 2011

Despite possibilities of scaling projects with technology, many technology-based initiatives in social and economic development have failed to make it past early pilot stages or grow to scale. This study by Hystra, in collaboration with Ashoka and TNO, examines what successful ventures within four sectors can teach us about models for scaling Information and Communications Technology (ICT) -based applications and projects aimed at reaching bottom-of-the-pyramid customers (referred to as Base of the Pyramid in the report). The researchers focused specifically on these sectors: education, health, agricultural services, and financial services.

What Did the Study Review?

Initially considering 280 projects as promising models, researchers found that over half were not worth researching because projects lacked sustainability or replicatibility. Many of the projects were dead pilot projects or were small with no sign of the possibility or intent of scaling in size or reach.

From there, researchers homed in on 16 groundbreaking cases. These projects had reached scale (defined as having 10,000 clients or more) or had the potential to do so. All projects were assessed against three criteria: Is the solution solving the (specified) problem? Is the project economically viable? Is the project scalable and replicable? The researchers grouped projects into specific clusters based on business model type. All projects researched were value-added or market-based, because of the researchers’ belief that such models increase project sustainability and client investment in the project.

The models that the researchers looked at varied. For instance, researchers asked whether end-users accessed the technology themselves as opposed to being delivered trough an intermediary.