Live from Skoll: 3 Tech Trends for Social Entrepreneurs

I’m here at the 2010 Skoll World Forum thanks to Silicon Valley (Jeff Skoll, eBay’s first employee and president, funds the foundation that puts this on), so I thought it appropriate to kick off my official blogging at SWF with three technology trends that are crying out for adoption among social entrepreneurs:

1. Crowdsourcing —   85% of humanity is now literate, including masses of poor people in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Moore’s Law makes it possible for them to connect to the rest of the world using increasingly cheap computers: $65 is the new $100 in the world of laptops. Most non-profits only leverage the developed-world crowd, and only for the purpose of fundraising. Why not think bigger? Innocentive harnesses the crowd to solve some of the world’s greatest R&D challenges through its website — there’s a lot we can learn from models like this one.

2. Game dynamics — Jesse Schell’s talk at DICE 2010 last month on the rise of social gaming wowed the Valley. For too long, people have dismissed gaming as a passing fad. Those people are wrong. In the US, the Wii Fit alone accounted for over $1B in sales last year, and FarmVille, Zynga’s most popular Facebook game, has more users than Twitter. In Korea, social gaming (and the sale of virtual goods that social games enable — see #3 below) is now a $4B industry. There’s a lot we can learn here. Subtle competition encourages user engagement, which can be leveraged to encourage people to shop ethically, live healthier, and donate more.

3. Virtual Goods — When I describe Samasource’s interest in virtual goods, funders often give me quizzical looks: “What do virtual goods have to do with ending poverty?” they ask. Well, all those little virtual tractors people buy on FarmVille are part of a whopping $1.6 billion market in 2010. Fonkoze and FATEM, a Haitian charity that sponsors the facility for Samasource’s digital work center in Haiti, raised $3.2M on Zynga through the sale of virtual goods in just one month. Non-profits and social enterprises with strong brands should be tapping into this new source of income — if I can buy a virtual bottle of Coke in my favorite Facebook game, why can’t I build a virtual school, or buy a virtual care package? Causes, Facebook’s link to non-profits, retails those goods on Facebook, but there’s a lot more room for branded charity goods around the web.

Let’s see what the next two days hold.

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