Inspiration for Smartphones4good
200 million phones are sold annually in Europe, 150+ million of the old ones litter our homes. An amazing estimate of 700 million phones hibernate at homes in the EU. In Africa 300 million adults lack a smartphone. And Internet via the phones is key to civic participation. Important for business, families and communities for education, health and nutrition.
They lack smartphone because of high initial cost - it's like we were buying a car twice a year. We know because our team Aion Sigma has been solving the problem of affordable smartphones in Africa for 3+ years. We make phones affordable simply via fair finance. Instead of paying it in one off, you pay it over time. The Corona stopped our work in Nigeria and Zambia, so we decided to do something novel. We came up with the idea to bridge sustainably the abundance of old phones in Europe with those excluded in Africa.
What it does
We make it easy as 1-2-3 to donate a smartphone for a good cause. Old smartphones receive a new life without actually transporting them to another country as that would not make ecological nor financial sense. Instead we sell the donated smartphones and finance new affordable quality smartphones to those who need them.
How we built it
We built a woocommerce based online shop to sell the phones prior to the hackathon. At EUvsVirus we went over the user journeys and extended our survey - based on those we created onboarding flow to donate the phone. We did carry interview with potential partners in Rwanda and Mozambique during the hackathon to understand and tune our approach towards the women entrepreneurs who will be able to improve the life of many in their families and communities.
Challenges we ran into
Main challenge has been so far on mapping the user journey and getting accepted to respectable bank's electronic payment gateway, woocommerce had it's hickups as well.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We already have been able to post on our site the first phones donated to us. And the onboarding flow is ready for more! We added also some UI flows that help with one of the big fears people have with their old phones - We wipe the phone clean before it is sold further. The support we have received in accolades tells us that we are onto something big.
- First phones are to be in use in Bamenda and Limbe in Cameroon by end of the Month
- We have agreed on 15th of May that we will with Ebase also based in Bamenda, Cameroon smartphones for pregnant women and doctors to educate on COVID and other motherhood, nursing related content and support http://www.ebaseafrica.org/about
What we learned
We have been running a survey and it seems that people really want to donate their old phones! The challenge we need to solve is 1) how to make this now as simple as possible in a way 2) where it still makes sense to take on the phones and sell them. In order to get started already today we opted to ask people to donate their phones via mail rather than pickup boxes at grocery stores. 3) Because people would like to donate phones also into grocery store boxes we will create an ambassador program with details how to collect phones for our cause.
What's next for Smartphones4good
- Corporate partners and smartphone resellers in Europe to donate used phones towards our cause
- Identify logistics partners and integrate our user experience with them seamlessly
- Invite more people and corporations to send the phones to us
- Samsung, Huawei, Apple, HMD etc. to work on a special price in Africa with their resellers so we can purchase phone most efficiently
- Samsung We support Knox to secure the phones, but we don't have a price that works with African entrepreneurs
- Banks and impact finance We are early-stage tech company and are not bankable by normal criteria of banking. We know how people behave with financed smartphones and solar panels; thus we are open for impact bond to lease phones in Africa. We are already in the market in Nigeria, Zambia and soon in Cameroon. Our solution could bridge digital exclusion gap also in Europe for those without credit score/history.
- Academia - research paper Our #smartphones4good-s4g project has identified some research that indicates 15% of used phones in the EU are not recycled and that there are upto 700 million phones in our drawers. We are running a survey on the motives of people to keep their phones and how they would prefer to donate them to advance women entrepreneurship/Covid battle. The questionnaire is here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Mg99TauslHirjREtExuJZwoi0j20fSWIja2zyqlJomQ/ It would be great if we found a researcher to help us turn the background research we find and our questionnaire to a research paper with us as co-author. Academia - Grant application to Climate KIC If your university is listed as Climate KIC partner then we would like to participate in this grant application with you https://eit.europa.eu/our-activities/covid-19-response/activities/eit-climate-kic-launches-call-proposals-covid19 Expression of interest due on 22nd of May
We are working on a program for religious communities to help us collect phone donations. First partners have been identified to take on old phones in bulk to be recycled or refurbished for sale. Already during the hackathon we agreed to bring content for midwife entrepreneurs In rural Rwanda, they travel and a smartphone will help them a lot - there is an app also for pregnant mothers. Both in our focus of women and women entrepreneurs.
We will add new partner organizations in Africa. Following lists our agreed webinars as part of "Ambitious Africa" matchmaking effort:
- 20th of May Uganda
- 25th of May Ethiopia
- 1st of June Mozambique
Logistics partnerships in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Spain (other countries?) to ensure that the phones are shipped from seller/donor to the buyer as easily as possible.
How can you help?
Join our survey It would help us tremendously to uncover more about motives and how people would be willing to do phone donations. https://docs.google.com/a/aionsigma.com/forms/d/1Mg99TauslHirjREtExuJZwoi0j20fSWIja2zyqlJomQ/edit?usp=drive_web
Who are we and how are we funded
S4G is a program of Aion Sigma, Inc. a Finnish, pan-European, global startup founded by a serial entrepreneur and backed by serial entrepreneurs and experts in financial inclusion. We are raising our first bigger round of finance and are keen to explore serious amount of seed capital. So far our revenues together are 100k with another 50k to be invoiced by end of June. We are early stage, but with a proven business model in Africa. With Smartphones - our most recent funding came from Falcon network in Dubai as presented in this post by MasterCard Lighthouse Massiv
Last a few notes on EU policies and our relevance