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Social enterprises are harnessing the power of technology to create a greater and more measured impact on communities around the world. Grace Ma reports.

Grace Ma

IN THIS CONNECTED AGE WHERE technological advancement is often viewed as an impediment to human interaction, a new breed of social entrepreneurs is using digital disruption to achieve greater social impact while running sustainable businesses that give value to their customers.

Take Zaya Learning Labs for example. Founder Neil D’ Souza started the social enterprise in India four years ago to provide quality content to low-income communities around the world via Class Cloud, an enterprise-grade wireless device that allows a classroom of 40 to 50 students to access personalised learning curriculums in places where there is limited or no internet.

The device enables women and students in rural schools to be educated for as low as $1 per month for a batch of 200 students. “We reach up to 1,000 students per school and this makes the unit economics of what we offer work very well,” says D’ Souza. “Our business model relies a lot on recurring revenue for our application and content; these costs are very low in the second and third year and hence our margins are very high.”

Meanwhile, in areas of healthcare and special needs assistance, Singapore-based start-ups such as Homage, Hapticus and eBeeCare use web and mobile technology to bridge the gap between demand and supply. Homage, started by Singaporeans Gillian Tee and Lily Phang in 2016, uses a proprietary system to build a smart customised care plan that helps those looking for home based care services match with suitable professionals who have the necessary qualifications and skills.

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May 2017

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