Startup communities will emerge on mass from the very places that are hard to reach as of now
New markets are hard to find, and yet there is one about to open up that many people haven't even begun to think about. It's rural India, and it's likely to be amazing. It will not just bring with it new revenues and grow the market exponentially over the next five years, but also offer people an opportunity to transform their lives as the market opens up.
For me, the primary factor that is opening up rural India is the increase of connectivity through wired and wireless technologies. The results will be transformational, particularly in education and health sectors. Connected communities can achieve a great deal, as distance is no longer a barrier to things like monitoring of health or even delivery of educational programs. And I can draw a few examples through my work in several countries across the world.
The UK and the US have already shown significant benefits to their own systems from remote learning and monitoring. Hospitals having iPads and centralised real-time tracking of patient stats has already proven a real benefit in terms of saving lives. Treatment becomes more prioritised and more proactive. Nurses can simply record patient's blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels and other indicators on tablets and mobiles. And special software can automatically tell them if the patient was deteriorating or alert a doctor or a rapid response team.
This also allows doctors and managers to monitor the health of patients across all wards. In Africa, programs of remote monitoring during pregnancy using simple text based services are already proving of significant value. There may be no doctors on the ground, but proactive, preventative methods are enabling higher rates of carrying full term.
In lesser developed countries like Afghanistan, creative use of simple mobile phones has enabled literacy rates to improve in remote areas. The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) implemented a mobile literacy programme, which involved mobile phones being used to promote basic literacy among women in rural Afghanistan. The programme's literacy sessions involved sending instruction via text messaging sent by teachers.
Students read the incoming message and responded via return text message - demonstrating their reading comprehension and writing skills. Through this, learning was accelerated â€“ achieving in four months what normally took 18 months. Today, using text and WAP technology, new applications are being introduced in the market to transform education in remote areas.
In the Indian context, as rural India embraces new connectivity, we can expect to see levelling with large cities and reduced migration from rural communities. These can all be sensibly derived from better connectivity if the right forces are put to work and technologists remember that there are real people's lives at the end of this equation.
All these ideas sound philosophical but opening up of these new markets is a haven for startups as innovative ways of meeting the needs of these newly connected communities will have to be found. Although there are unique challenges already perceived around price points and user experience, there are also unidentified challenges for this new community who in many cases will be experiencing wireless technology for the very first time. It is a relatively unexplored, undocumented and misunderstood market.
The massive win-win for early movers into this market is that the more successfully these communities are engaged, the more progressive, affluent and involved they will be. Soon, startup communities themselves will emerge on mass from those very places that are now hard to reach.
(Noakes is the co-founder of TechHub, an organisation that provides physical and virtual spaces for technology startups across the UK, the US and Europe)