Here is why you should care more about elearning and green startups

bicycle flower

They aren’t as flashy or sexy as providing a new social or music app gimmick, but startups and projects involved in areas such as elearning or those providing environmental solutions, supply a great appetite. A demand the government, for instance, would be keen to satisfy and fund.

Apart from the industries also becoming increasingly lucrative, they provide real solutions for real world problems. Having said that, governments, NGOs, banks, multinationals, etc. have great stakes in supporting small businesses operating in those industries.

elearning and education

Education is one of those sectors that drastically needs innovation. As such, this massive demand is also met with a supply that’s proving to become more and more lucrative and, more importantly, exciting. These include governmental initiatives, NGOs and also private businesses.

While the demand for innovations in learning and teaching is spurring exciting entrepreneurial initiative, the education sector is to become a US$107.3-billion industry by 2015 internationally according to Global Industry Analytics.

Why is elearning so important? First off, teachers and instructors could reach millions of students. This means that the need for quantity to cater for the massive demand could be overcome with quality which is much more important. Secondly, philanthropy or otherwise, the industry is booming.

In Gauteng, the provincial government is launching a R215-million elearning program that aims to provide the largest cloud computing initiative in Africa called Gauteng Online Learning (GoL). Not only does this show us that there’s a demand for innovation in South Africa’s education sector, it also shows us that there’s massive support from government agencies.

There are also many initiatives across Sub-Saharan Africa using both cutting-edge hardware and quality content that have really been impressive recently. Supported by Samsung, the e-Limu tablet initiative provides tablets and comprehensive courses to learners in Kenya. iSchoolAfrica, on the other hand, is supported by Apple and wants to bring provides both hardware to bring quality education to learners and other charity programmes.

Sure, projects or initiatives like these could easily fall under the non-profit sector while in turn be considered non-businesses. Yet the industry has shows to become extremely attractive worldwide.

According to a recent Ambient Insight study focusing on six African countries, the elearning sector is growing at a rate of 15% from 2011 to 2016. This will in effect double the existing revenue to a staggering US$512.7 million by 2016.

This is not only significant when it comes to meeting the demands of African schools but also reflects the global reach you can gain with elearning initiatives. Other than governmental or NGO funding, monetisation methods vary from presenting subscription fees, to having an attractive advertising eco-system, etc.

GetSmarter is a high-touch education company that delivers a range of online courses such as business writing, internet marketing and business economics which are all accredited by the University of Cape Town.

DAC Systems also developed AlwaysOn Learning which is a system that facilitates administration and communication in learning at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

PaperRight doesn’t necessarily fall under the elearning category but has nonetheless made incredible strides with its innovative methods of distributing and cutting down costs of learning content. The company allows books to be better distributed in South Africa by letting participating copy shops print out the tomes cheaply and legally.

Exemplifying the importance of public recognition and prestige, PaperRight also recently won the Digital Minds Innovation Award in London, awarded O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase and was officially congratulated by the South African National Assembly.

Predominantly focusing on mobile education, Steve Vosloo has, over the last few years, been responsible for projects such as M4lit and mLearning Africa and has gained a total sum of US$213 614 from the Mark Shuttleworth Foundation‘s fellowship programme.

By providing fellowships, the Shuttleworth Foundation has supported initiatives such as PaperRight founder Arthur Atwell’s with a total of US$410 805 according to the website.

Go green!

This could apply to an already-existing business just applying friendlier environmental operation methods or a startup with a main agenda revolving around supplying a green product or service.

Organisations such as the SA’s Department of Environmental Affairs’ Green Fund aim to promote eco-friendly and sustainable projects to further support South Africa’s green economy. Earlier this year, the Green Fund has received R10.9 billion worth of Project Applications that includes governmental, NGO as well as private initiatives.

Launched last year, Small Enterprise Finance Agency (sefa) aims to support small businesses that would improve South Africa’s economy as a whole. Sefa focuses on areas that contribute to small-scale manufacturing, agro processing, services in infrastructure development, mining services, the green economy and tourism. VC4Africa has listed some of these startups offering real solutions including mobile cell phone kiosks.

As with elearning, the reasons for starting eco-friendly businesses and initiatives are numerous. Not only is it commonly considered the right thing to do morally, it will also help cut down on your business’ taxes and is likely to improve your public image. Having a better public image will increase the likelihood of people buying your product or service.

First-off, simply having a green next to your company name will already make you standout from the rest. It makes for a good headline and triggers people’s sympathy votes. A company like MellowCabs, which we featured last week, not only offers innovative solutions in providing transport and a sustainable business model, it does all that at the same time being eco-friendly.

The mindset should change that sectors like these mentioned above should not be seen as charities but instead, massive business opportunities. These sectors require private sector involvement to a much greater degree which is one of the reasons the government and multinationals alike want a slice of the pie. So why don’t you?

Image via ozmafan

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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