Mobile Technology, Kiosks, and Last Mile Distribution: Three Trends in Rural/BoP Social Enterprise



In her Blog Post, Jessica Santana, follows three trending tools in Rural/BoP models which,

“currently show great promise in terms of financial self-sustenance, scalability, and provision of tangible social benefits to low-income people.”

Non-financial services via mobile devices: health, agricultural, and other information

Africa embodies the promise of mobile communication. Mobile cellular subscriptions in Africa have skyrocketed from 11 million to 333 million over the past ten years. Nearly half of all African villages are covered by mobile networks. Africa has led the world in the adoption and penetration of mobile-based money transfer solutions. Nearly all of the mobile initiatives researched by Monitor in the region are in their infancy, however, and none outside of financial services appears yet commercially viable. For these enterprises to succeed, they will need to be affordable, equipped to charge the consumer, incorporate alternative revenue streams, be easy to use, and involve trusted intermediaries to facilitate service.

Last-mile infrastructure: micro-grid electricity generation and urban water kiosks

“Last-mile infrastructure” serves impoverished and often isolated communities where it is not otherwise available. Monitor observed two models in particular, micro-grid electricity generation and urban water kiosks, that may prove successful if a few hurdles are addressed. Rural households generate micro-grid electricity by directly connecting to a standalone, local mini-grid powered by a small, independently generated source. Despite the demand and impact of micro-grid electricity generation, the host enterprise never recoups its capital expenditure, struggles to acquire new customers due to up-front lump sum connection fees, and must closely manage collection rates.

Urban water kiosks are businesses that sell water from the main water lines to individuals in slums and peri-urban areas for a low, per-20-liter-can fee. These kiosks benefit from widespread appreciation for clean water and subsidization from higher-paying customers in other areas of the water company’s service zone. Nevertheless, the model suffers from price inflexibility, poor filtration at the kiosks, and low flexibility on allowing private operators to supply water services.

Distribution to isolated communities through direct sales agent networks

The final model described in the report is distribution via dedicated direct sales forces. In this model, an enterprise trains a cadre of dedicated, “all-in-one” direct sales agents to deliver products such as health or agricultural items that are purchased wholesale and delivered to the customer’s doorstep. The challenge inherent in this model is the cost of training, equipping, coaching, and supervising the sales agents. In addition, enterprises utilizing this model struggle to set profitable prices, to balance their social goals with the commercial goal of selling high-margin products, and to stimulate demand in new products without lowering sales potential.

Great examples on market based approaches for large scale, and remote social issues.

Link to the original Blog post here:


3 thoughts on “Mobile Technology, Kiosks, and Last Mile Distribution: Three Trends in Rural/BoP Social Enterprise

  1. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  2. Arniitka- thank you for your comment, glad you got a free breakfast!! my original vision for the site was to supply links to news, reports, etc.; but i may eventually add more content…i wanted this to be a resource (academic, journalistic, etc.) for people- to connect them to great info that they can bookmark and study further later on. Hope you check back in soon…

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