Digital Technology-based New Business Model for Inclusive Development

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: International Development

Abstract

"Leave no one behind" has been a key objective of the recently agreed UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the poor, in particular the youth and women, are often being marginalised and excluded from market participation due to unequal access to education, resources and information, empowering and including these segments into the main stream market and income creation activities turns out to be an important imperative to achieve SDGs and build an inclusive society. This is important as developing countries are witnessing an upsurge of young people in rather inadequate labour market. While emerging digital technologies can become both an equaliser and a disruptive factor in labour markets, they can empower both women and youth. The decreasing cost of digital technology should thus foster and support new exchange mechanisms that will generate new models of value creation (Amit and Zott, 2012) and will lead business organisations towards network based systems (Dafe & Lewin, 1993; Dunbar & Starbuck, 2006). Many new digital technology-based business models have already been developed. These developments not only create new drivers for economic growth, but also lead to upgrading of capabilities of small business owners. Such increased capabilities will in turn enhance the welfare of the poor (Sen, 1999).
However, there are a number of gaps to fill in order for this potential to fully materialise. (1) Most of the research focuses on the evaluation of the impact of technology on development. Little is known about the business models that are needed to transform the benefits of technology into jobs, income and a driver for growth for the poor (Seelos & Mair, 2007). (2) The existing studies mostly focus on e-trading businesses that sell products or services online, and normally require considerable initial capital investment to start the business. What type of new business model can help the poor to benefit from digital technology? This is an under-explored area for inclusive development. (3) Some research is available on how to use business models for digital innovations to support growth of new businesses and employment. How is it possible to design a business model to empower the poor who have no initial capital to benefit from technological progress is missing. What underlying institutional, regulatory and capability conditions are needed to ensure the success of such digital technology-based new business model? What role can the state and Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) play in this process? These questions will fill the significant gap and provide important policy and managerial implications.
Drawing on inter-disciplinary research from technology, development studies and responsible business studies, this project aims to fill in the gap in the literature with an Inclusive Digital Model (IDMODEL) that will particularly include deprived youth and women. In particular, it will:
1) Develop, test and finalise a digital technology-based new business model which enables poor people to start a business based on their skills and experiences, while requiring minimum capital investment.
2) Evaluate the impact of this DT-based business model on jobs, income creation and capabilities building.
3) Analyse the underlying regulatory and capability conditions that are needed to ensure its success and scale up, and the possibility to replicate in other developing countries.
4) Examine how the state, MNEs and civil society can collaborate for inclusive development.
The project will be supported by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the universities of Oxford and Birmingham, and collaborators in Bangladesh and China from both the private and public sectors.
It will contribute to the literature by filling current gaps on technology, business model and inclusive development and its impact as well as producing novel datasets and robust empirical evidence to elaborate relevant policies for development.

Planned Impact

IDMODEL places communication, policy engagement and exploitation of its research methodologies and findings at the heart of its activities. In addition to the project's overall dissemination and uptake approach, each work package will have a clearly defined impact strategy with specific and targeted engagement with a range of partners and stakeholders.

1. Communications, Engagement and Collaboration
The development of the IDMODEL proposal has come about through extensive consultation and co-production with a range of academic, policy and corporate partners in the UK, Bangladesh, China, other developing countries such as Africa, and in key international agencies. These include its named international partners and advisors of the project; national policy makers, NGOs, key United Nations agencies, and major internet MNEs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of ICT of Bangladesh are consulted and are supportive to the project. By maintaining our co-production and engaged interaction with these various partners and stakeholders we will ensure that our research is better rooted to local needs, and thus better able to provide useful knowledge. The PI and Co-I are frequent advisers to UN agencies and the PI serves in the Governing Council of the UN Technology Bank and the 10-Member Group to the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism. These close links with UN agencies, Bangladesh government are also effective avenues for communicating the findings and policy uptakes.
The project will maintain a bespoke website and social media, disseminating its research outputs and activities. The PI and Co-I are already active discussants on major media disseminating research findings.
The project will hold Round-table Discussions at an early stage of IDMODEL to have a close 'reality check' to ensure that the research fits the local context and focuses on most urgent problems. We will co-organise stakeholder meetings with key UN agencies, targeting ministers and business leaders for dissemination and engagement. In Bangladesh, we will organise a workshop involving all stakeholders to participate. Training workshops will be organised there. The collaboration with scholars and research institutes in Bangladesh and China will also significantly enhance our local policy dimensions and business linkages.

Impact Pathways by Work Programmes:
WP 1 will engage with policy makers, regulators, business leaders and the grassroots communities in Bangladesh and China improve the digital business ecosystem, and influence the shaping of an agenda on inclusive digital economy.
WP2 will engage with MNEs, NGOs, grassroots communities and the government to promote the diffusion and adoption of IDMODEL in the wider society; engage with MNEs and policy makers to improve local digital infrastructure; and engage with policy makers to enhance the developmental impact of IDMODEL.
WP 3 will engage with MNCs and local government and NGOs to promote collaborations between the three actors for inclusive development, and influence the shaping of corporate strategies that promoting SDGs and strengthen public policies that encourages such a change and collaborations among these actors.

Exploitation and application
Senior officials of ITU and UNDESA serve as policy advisors to the project, which will strengthen the policy impact and research uptake. Findings from the survey and other research will be feedback to participating communities, digital micro firms, platform provider and MNEs, and policy makers in NGOs and government, and help them to identify strengths and gaps, and learn from best practice. The project will engage graduate students at the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham. Masters and doctoral students at these institutions will be able to draw on this database for their thesis research. The project will also develop new models and interdisciplinary approaches on IDMODEL.

Publications

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E. Avenyo (2020) ICT, informality and employment growth: Evidence from Ghana in World Development

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Fu X (2020) Trade in intangibles and the global trade imbalance in The World Economy

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Ghauri, P. (2020) Digital Technology and Entrepreneurship: A framework for Inclusive Development in Management International Reviews

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X. Fu (2020) Capability development of grassroots entrepreneurs through digital business model in Technology Forecasting and Social Change

 
Description There are some key findings from the first stage of the research.
The short video platform technology based inclusive digital model (IDMODEL) that we developed has the potential to deliver the following transformative benefits:
1. IDMODEL is characterised by inclusiveness on both sides of the platform: the grassroots video content producers and users; as well as the growth of the grassroots entrepreneurs and the platform.
2. IDMODEL contributes to economic growth of the country, and VALUE creation and opportunity creation for the marginalised communities. The video producers will enjoy increased income, capabilities development, enhanced social capital, greater access to information and opportunities, and empowerment. The grassroots users will benefit from confidence boost, knowledge and information, and capabilities enhancement.
3. Poverty alleviation in marginalised communities by reducing information inequality and value creation for all.
4. Some people in the marginalised parts of the society completed the dual transformation of identity and role: from small food growers to Internet entrepreneurs.

However, the achieve these impacts, the presence of enabling factors are important. There is a role for policies to improve the digital infrastructure, enhance digital skills of the grassroots, and develop relevant regulations to protect users and build up trust.

We are going to carry out the end line survey in next 3 months, which will enable us to complete the whole project research and deliver the expected impact.
Exploitation Route This innovation will make its major impact in Bangladesh. It has a potential to make an impact on the marginalised communities in many other developing countries. It can be scaled up to other countries in South Asia, South East Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America, with some local adaptation of the APP language and local mobile payment links.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

 
Description The IDMODEL project team has developed a mobile phone-based APP, Haate Haat (Hand-to-hand), and made it available free for download at Google Shop. The team is currently carrying out a Randomised Controlled Experiment (RCT) to accurately evaluate its impact and fully understand the conditions to maximise the potential that this innovation can offer. The project already surveyed 1800 people in the marginalised communities in 3 cities, trained 822 people in the treatment group who installed this APP during April to May 2020, and trained another 532 users in August 2020 during the high time of the pandemic to enable them to connect and communicate with friends and relatives and seek information and support to fight against the pandemic. At present, we are planning the final survey to be carried out in next 3 months, so that we can scale up this innovation nation-wide in Bangladesh. The model/innovation has a potential to benefit most of the people in Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar. The transformative benefits are: 1. IDMODEL is characterised by inclusiveness on both sides of the platform: the grassroots video content producers and users; as well as the growth of the grassroots entrepreneurs and the platform. 2. IDMODEL contributes to economic growth of the country, and VALUE creation and opportunity creation for the marginalised communities. The video producers will enjoy increased income, capabilities development, enhanced social capital, greater access to information and opportunities, and empowerment. The grassroots users will benefit from confidence boost, knowledge and information, and capabilities enhancement. 3. Poverty alleviation in marginalised communities by reducing information inequality and value creation for all. 4. Some people in the marginalised parts of the society completed the dual transformation of identity and role: from small food growers to Internet entrepreneurs. The project will have its major impact in Bangladesh. The APP and the business model that it developed has a potential to make an impact on the marginalised communities in all other developing countries.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Title Baseline survey 
Description Collected baseline data on 1800 sampled households in Dhaka, Bogura and Barishal. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Due to the lack of administrative data in Bangladesh, the baseline survey provides unique first-hand information on sampled households. 
 
Title IDMODEL 2nd baseline online survey 
Description IDMODEL 2nd baseline online survey in August 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Collected 532 valid responses. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact To be analysed together with endline survey. a short snopshot of the data was presented at IDMODEL project conference in Jan 2021. 
 
Description Collaboration with SBK Foundation in Bangladesh 
Organisation SBK Foundation
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am the PI of this project, and Oxford University is the leading institute in this partnership. We are responsible to the idea development, research and evaluation.
Collaborator Contribution Contribute to local mobile APP development, local role-out of the app, and assist with the training, uptake, some data collection, and policy engagement.
Impact An APP developed for the project; training and outreach events for the project. It is a multi-stakeholder partnership.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with UIBE for China fieldwork 
Organisation University of International Business and Economics
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborate on the fieldwork in China about the case study company and stakeholders and related data collection and data analysis. Oxford team designed the research, participated in the follow up discussions, literature review and questionnaire discussion and revision, and data analysis and writing up.
Collaborator Contribution The UIBE team helped to contact case study company, coordinated the fieldwork, and carried out data collection in collaboration with Birmingham team and Oxford team, and will contribute to data analysis and some writing up. They have input staff time on this.
Impact Interview questionnaire.
Start Year 2018
 
Description FBCCI 
Organisation Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Collaboration in scale up the IDMODEL project app
Collaborator Contribution Partnership in national roll out and scale up of the project APP, co-organise joint event for dissemination and outreach. Bring in local networks.
Impact In progress of co-organised events.
Start Year 2021
 
Title Haate Haat (Hand in hand) 
Description A mobile phone technology based short video APP facilitating content-based business and income creation activities and also knowledge sharing. It is free to download from Google shop. 
Type Of Technology e-Business Platform 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact It is currently in the process of field RCT experiment. 
URL https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.syntecglobal.hand_to_hand&hl=en
 
Description A visit to Kwai company 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A full day meeting and visit with practitioners in Kwai company about the impact of new digital technology and its developmental impact
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Field visit and engagements with project stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A 5-day working trip by project team to Dhaka to meet Politicians/Project participants on the objectives of the IDMODEL project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Haate Haat 2-minute video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact main provided to potential partners and funding bodies to support this project's scale up.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://youtu.be/2sH8s43WtHQ
 
Description IDMODEL project conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact There are 400 people registered the conference, the conference video was published on TMCD website, Youtube, Wechat, and Tencent video platform. There are in total thousands of viewers.
There are in total more than 500 media pick-ups of the conference, including 184 English media, more than 300 Chinese media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.oxfordtmcd.org/event/tmcd-inclusive-digital-model-online-conference