Using Robots to Create New Jobs in Benin, Fiji, DR and more
Incubating local "Drones-as-a-Service" businesses in Benin, Fiji, Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
It is a fact that robots take away jobs. But as with any new era, the 4th industrial revolution is also creating new jobs. The commercialization of robots, such as civil drones, has created tens of thousands of new jobs in the last 5 years. However sadly, most of these jobs were and keep on being created in the Global North, creating an even bigger digital and robotics divide between the North and the South. Our mission at WeRobotics is to change that, to bridge the divide and allow countries of the global South to access the same opportunities as their fellow citizens in the North. Thanks to MIT Solve Challenge
Through our Flying Labs network, we localize the application of robotics technologies in low-income countries. To make the localization process efficient and scalable, we use a proven 4-phase framework. Through this framework we 1) Identify local needs through in-country Co-Creation workshops, 2) Build local skills through hands-on hard- and software trainings, 3) Increase local impact through pilot projects and in-country applications and 4) Catalyze local businesses through our “Drones-as-a-Service” Business Incubation programs.
It is this last phase, our “Drones-as-a-Service” Business Incubation programs, that we wish to expand to all of our Flying Labs, which today is not the case seen the investments needed and the skepticism of traditional thinkers who debate that new technology incubation in the Global South does not bring the hoped-for results. We believe that it is through small actions that we can change the world, one new business and each new job at a time. First of all, because our Business Incubation program is not a free-standing initiative but is part of a process that supports the people behind these new businesses and jobs before and after the program. Second, because our 4-month program relies on proven methods, simplicity, an efficient timeframe and local expertise all the while having a well-defined scope and adapted expectations to local markets and opportunities when it comes to success. And last but not least, because we see that it only takes a few sparks to light a fire: a few new entrepreneurs inspire others not only to follow their path but to innovate in new solutions using emerging technologies, or in building peripheral service businesses, like for example a local repair shop for drones.
We have tested our program in Nepal and Tanzania in 2017 and in both countries, small new economies with the incubation of 4 new companies, over 20 new jobs and a new industry have been created. Though a niche market, such new industries allow to not only create new businesses and jobs but also new ecosystems, adding to the digital landscape of countries’ new economies and helping to bridge the digital divide, each new job created at a time. Support our challenge and help us to keep on creating new jobs in the next 12 months in Fiji, Benin, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
Watch our elevator pitch:
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Geneva, Switzerland
The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:
What makes our solution innovative:
Our solution incubates new businesses and creates new jobs in low-income countries by localising emerging technologies and building local ecosystems through our Flying Labs network. The innovation lays in identifying and creating local opportunities first, then creating solutions to scale these opportunities with local talent through our Business Incubation Program. In short, what makes our solution innovative is that we address the "Why" and "How" before getting into the nitty-gritty part of the "What", and to do this by contextualising it to each local market AND the profiles of the local participants of our programs.
How technology is integral to our solution:
The businesses we incubate all have a "Drones-as-a-Service" focus. The use and application of emerging technologies therefore lays at the foundation of their value propositions. However, in all our activities, the focus is not on technology per-se but on what values these technologies can generate, what solutions they can provide and what opportunities they can create.
Our solution goals over the next 12 months:
Our goal is to extend our "Drones-as-a-Service" Business Incubation Program to a minimum of 2 and maximum of 4 more countries in the next 12 months. To find the needed budget and achieve this goal, we will actively fundraise in collaboration with our Flying Labs.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:
Our "Drones-as-a-Service" Business Incubation Programs are integral part of our Flying Labs framework and local capacity building activities in low-income countries. Our vision is to introduce these programs to all our Flying Labs and to enable our Flying Labs to organize these programs independently with the support of partners.
Our promotional video:
The key characteristics of the populations who will benefit from our solution in the next 12 months:
The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:
The countries where we currently operate:
Where we plan to expand in the next 12 months:
How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:
Our "Drones-as-a-Service" Business Incubation programs are locally managed through our Flying Labs network (http://flyinglabs.org) and local program partners such as local tech-incubators and universities.
How many people we are currently serving with our solution:
Through our first 2 programs in Nepal and Tanzania, we have motivated over 150 young engineers to create ideas for a drone-related business, have trained and mentored 32 engineers to become entrepreneurs and have helped incubate 6 new "Drones-as-a-Service" businesses (3 in Nepal, 3 in Tanzania). In turn, the engineers trained and businesses incubated allow to start out a brand-new economies in their respective countries and inspire others to follow their lead to become entrepreneurs using drones and drone data to become independent starting their own business.
How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
For each local program deployed, we expect to motivate between 50 and 100 young engineers to create ideas for drone-related businesses. And for each program, we will select 16 of them to participate as Finalists in our Seminar and Competition. We plan on incubating 3 - 4 small service businesses for each program.
How our solution team is organized:Non-Profit
How many people work on our solution team:2
How many years we have been working on our solution:1-2 years
The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:
- Design Thinking methodology to identify opportunities
- Expert training methodologies and business incubation training curriculums
- Over 15 years experience in incubating businesses, including in low-income countries
- Global and local in-depth networks with all the relevant stakeholders
- Global and local presence, through WeRobotics and our Flying Labs network
- Passion for addressing the Robotics Divide
Our revenue model:
While our Business Incubation Programs will always depend on donor funding, the small service companies they help to incubate will create their detailed business and financial plan which will provide them with a plan for sustainability. In addition, finalist teams are supported by local mentors during and after the program, and our Flying Labs networks provides finalist teams with business opportunities to help kick-start their compagnies and build up experiences and networks on their own.
Why we are applying to Solve:
Why: As with our contribution of last year for Pacific Flying Labs, we believe that Solve is both a great amplifier to spread the word and educate about the issue of Digital and Robotics Divide all the while giving us the opportunity to present a specific solution to address the problem through the Solve Challenge.
How: Like with all our activities at WeRobotics, the "Drones-as-a-Service" Business Incubation Program can only be successful through the combined contribution of an ecosystem, an element for which Solve can play a crucial role.
The key barriers for our solution:
Currently our "Drones-as-a-Service Business Incubation Program" has the two following key barriers:
- Skepticism of traditional thinkers who debate that new technology incubation in the Global South does not bring the hoped-for results
- Investment and funding for future programs (linked to point 1)
Solve can provide us with a platform that allows us to present our way of incubating technology businesses, hence address the two key barriers mentioned above.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers: