Are drones the next big enabler for achieving social impact in Africa?
For entrepreneurs in many parts of Africa working to make a positive difference in heath, agriculture, education, and beyond, the road is often tough - and full of potholes. Especially when delivering goods and services to people in remote areas: it’s expensive and unreliable. But what if this transportation barrier could be overcome using drones? Imagine the potential impact of connecting places that are otherwise cut off due to bad roads, the rainy season or even natural disasters.
Cellphone technology, backed by widespread network coverage and Internet connectivity, opened the door for new solutions to pressing issues in African countries. Why? Because in a relatively short space of time digital information could now be delivered anywhere within the mobile network, and anyone with a cellphone could join. New and inclusive business models were developed that used the mobile network for good: farmers gained access to real time market prices; patients in remote areas gained access to specialist doctors based in the cities, and mobile money completely change the ease of receiving and sending money in remote areas. Within 15 years, the landscape of digital goods and services changed drastically. What if the same were possible for physical products and services? Could drones today, offer Africa the same opportunity that cellphone technology offered the continent 15 years ago? Our answer to this question is Yes! Quite possibly! We think drones can have the same leap frogging and disruptive potential that cellphone technology did back then.
Drones are already achieving social impact in a range of ways, see the infographic below. In Rwanda for example, drone delivery company Zipline is able to deliver blood anywhere in the country within 15 minutes. Having access to blood in such a timely manner is saving lives particularly in remote areas where excessive bleeding is a leading cause of maternal deaths. This is a brilliant idea but only a handful of other examples of drones doing good can be found on the continent. So the question remains: How can we go from potential to seismic impact?
At the moment, any entrepreneur that wants to use drones must have the specialized knowledge and significant financial resources necessary to develop, maintain and operate an entire drone system. But what if entrepreneurs could tap into a drone “postal network” to deliver services and goods to remote areas of Africa?
How can we build a drone network that can enable local entrepreneurs to deliver goods and services to remote areas with the click of a mouse or an sms message and in so doing unlock significant social impact? Endeva along with IBA, IXDS and IBAN is organizing an event this October that aims to begin to answer this question. It’s called Inclusive Innovation 2030 (ii2030). Over 2 days we will co-create 5 separate technology-led solutions to global challenges by bringing the right set of actors into a design thinking process. It will be fun, it will be interactive, but, above all, it will be a powerful engine of change. By the end of the 2 days we will have a roadmap for at least one possible solution to creating a drone network that is multifunctional, cost effective, energy efficient, locally produced and that can meet the needs of entrepreneurs in Africa.
Ahead of the event we are holding an online discussion. The conversation is now live!It will run through to the end of next week (6 October 2017).
We want to hear from you!
- Entrepreneurs in Africa: Could such a drone network help you with your current business model? Does this possibility spark any new business ideas?
- Drone expert or enthusiasts: What do think is driving and holding back the sector the most? What are possible solutions to the challenges?
- Anyone interested in social impact in Africa: How can we maximize the social impact of drones? What are key considerations to not look over?
Join the online discussion here (simply login with your linked in account or fill in the basic sign-in form). We will also have an expert’s live chat next week drop me a message if you want an alert.
About the authors: Mariska Van Gaalen is an Associated Expert at Endeva and Tendai Pasipanodya is a Director at Endeva. They are organising the "Drone delivery in Africa track" at ii2030. This track is sponsored by Airbus' Aerospace Accelerator, Airbus BizLab.