Kentaro Toyama on Tech for Emerging Markets

Stanford hosted Kentaro Toyama, last night to discuss recent work done by Microsoft Research India‘s Tech for Emerging Markets group, which he heads. India is home to 44m “microenterprises” (a category that includes the self-employed and companies with fewer than 5 people); the entrepreneurs behind them generate, on average, $1K to $2K per year. Toyama’s team studied 47 such companies in Bangalore last year, and learned some interesting things:

1. Over 90% owned or used a television; over 60% owned or used a mobile phone, and only 20% owned or used PCs.

2. When asked, most entrepreneurs were not interested at all in accessing a PC; some expressed interest in more access to mobile phones

3. Most connect to a local customer base; 80-90% of their clientele comes from the surrounding neighborhood, the rest are referrals.

Toyama also mentioned a breakthrough concept for sharing PCs in educational settings called Multipoint. These two photos of kids using it are a good indication of how useful Multipoint can be in classrooms:

The team’s papers are all available at the Tech for Emerging Markets Project website: http://research.microsoft.com/~jdonner/micros.aspx

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