Praekelt.org is a mission-driven organization that works with government, NGOs, and social enterprises to develop digital technologies for social change. Through its Praekelt.org Incubator for Free Basics, which it launched in partnership with Facebook in 2015, it partners with select organizations, helping them to publish their services on the Free Basics Platform. (Free Basics is Facebook’s effort to bring free basic internet services to people in 45 countries on more than 60 mobile operators.)
The effort ensures that millions of people can access important services for free, like the ones the incubator recently launched for Planned Parenthood, She Inspires Her, and doctHERS. Praekelt.org has announced its commitment to helping a total of 100 independently-selected social change sites by the end of the year and has partnered with 69 select organizations so far.
I had an opportunity to chat with Praekelt.org about the initiative and how they guide their partners on selecting content that is appropriate for mobile consumption. Here’s what they shared with me on best practices, challenges, and what they look for in partners.
Outbrain: How is mobile content different? How are you advising your partners to select their content for this initiative?
Praekelt: Mobile is not an easy medium to wrap one’s head around. It requires bite-sized content, clear call-to-action, interactive features and, ideally, regularly updated content and service offerings. But, in a world in which there are more mobile devices than people, the potential payoff is enormous. Rather than playing catch up in the future, the Praekelt Incubator allows organizations of all sizes to tap into this opportunity now.
Outbrain: When offering guidance on free basics, what type of content do you find makes the most sense for mobile?
Praekelt: For Free Basics, content that is largely text based (with a few images) and content that can easily be converted to modular format is usually best.
Outbrain: Who do you recommend applying to your incubator program? What do you look for in a partner?
Praekelt: For organizations to qualify for our incubator program they must be:
- A non-profit organization, social enterprise, government agency or aid agency
- Have content that aims to improve people’s lives
- Have mobile-friendly content or content easy to convert to a digital format
Outbrain: How are your partners currently maintaining the content that they’ve selected for the Free Basics platform?
Praekelt: The organization appoints someone to take charge of the uploading and maintenance of the content. The size of the organization is usually an indicator of how the content is managed. Smaller organizations, where the founder is in charge of the content, there is usually one person maintaining the content. Meanwhile, some larger organizations have at least six people with access to the content management system, as they work in teams.
Outbrain: What is the biggest challenge you find when working with some of your partners?
Praekelt: Assessing computer literacy before we start is the biggest challenge. When you have someone who is familiar with how a visual Content Management System (a CMS is an app that helps non-programmers visually load/manage site content), the process and flow is picked up fairly easy. However sometimes you need to be prepared for someone who needs more assistance and training on how to navigate, and then it naturally takes longer to get them comfortable navigating the system.
Outbrain: Do the organizations you partner with already have existing content or are they often creating fresh content for this initiative?
Praekelt: Most organizations we work with have existing content that is adapted. Some work on subsets of their existing content that is adapted and optimized for mobile purposes.
Outbrain: What do you consider the measure of success for these partnerships?
Praekelt: We are happy when we hear from these partnerships that they have always wanted to be on the platform, but found it daunting. We feel we’ve succeeded if we aided them in simplifying the process.
Outbrain: Can you tell me a little about some of the free basics projects you recently launched for some of your partners?
Praekelt: We have 10 initial partners live on Free Basics through the help of our incubator so far.
- She Inspires Her, which is an organization aimed to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs and promote small but growing women owned businesses on the African continent.
- HelpMeSee eradicates preventable blindness caused by cataracts.
- SEED Madagascar teaches people in Madagascar better English though their SEED English mobile site.
- Edukayson is a site in the Philippines working towards zero unemployment through helping young people plan their education for careers.
- We also helped Da Subject Matter, part of Planned Parenthood and based in Nigeria.
- African Trust Academy inspires and educates people by providing financial education and fin-ed based credit scoring to increase financial inclusion.
- WeFarm aims to help farmers to improve their lives with increased access to information from animal husbandry and planting to fertilization and harvesting crops.
- doctHERs connects women by aiming to influence health-seeking behavior and improving their health and ultimately transforming lives.
- Vahan.co makes education more accessible and effective for low-income populations for the purpose of enhancing their employability.
- We Dream Africa delivers engaging African-themed entertaining eBooks.
So far, the feedback we’ve received from our partners has all been extremely positive. They have seen a lot of value in the training and tool, as it has enabled them to get their content and information into the hands of some of the people who need it the most.