Our progress in 2020

For 48percent.org, 2020 was a year of growth and exploration. It was our first full year as a foundation. Because of the pandemic, it was also a year that showed the whole world just how important connectivity is. The global focus on connectivity and moving towards a more digital society gave us ample opportunities to support projects working on connectivity solutions that fit the needs of their community. It also gave us opportunities to partner with other organizations and learn from them. Below is a summary of the projects we contributed to, and how we developed as a foundation in the year 2020.

Refining our mission and vision 

The mission of 48percent.org is to facilitate equality through equitable access to connectivity. We do this by supporting and setting up projects within three program lines that give us direction but are not meant to restrict us. The program lines are:

1. To facilitate access to affordable connectivity. 

2. To facilitate higher education levels and digital literacy

3. To facilitate privacy awareness and safe internet usage

Program line 1 refers to physical access. Does the project provide wifi, or build a better infrastructure for internet capabilities? Then it falls in the first program line. Program line 2 is all about giving people the tools to learn more, either for digital literacy, or to provide themselves more opportunities. Program line 3 is meant to be for projects that promote internet privacy awareness and safe internet usage.

We have the advantage of being a foundation with a guaranteed budget which allows us to make financial contributions to a number of grassroots projects throughout the year. We also have access to a wealth of knowledge, and the ability to donate our time to projects. This is shown, for example, through our cooperation with Edumais this year, where we designed and wrote a lesson plan teaching students about internet safety and privacy. We have also had some success with being involved in pilot programs, and plan to explore that avenue more in 2021.

Establishing our board of directors

As an officially recognized foundation, we are required to have a board of directors and that board needs to have an official board meeting at least once a year. The board of 48percent.org is made up by Mark Vletter, Ben Hoetmer, and Pollien van Keulen.

This year we held our first official board meeting. During the meeting, we talked about the projects from 2020, the plans for 2021, the makeup of the 48percent.org team, and the possibilities for scaling up our financial contributions in the future.

Organizations we collaborated with

This year was the year of exploration and diversification. The aim was to build a portfolio of different types of projects and methods of contribution.

We made a financial contribution to BlinkNow to fund their wifi for a year and pay for additional laptops for the staff and kids at the school in Nepal. Even though the internet connection is available in Nepal, it’s expensive and by funding this we make sure they can spend their money on different ways to support the children in Kopila Valley.

We worked on a lesson plan about privacy awareness for Edumais  that could be implemented in their regular curriculum. Unfortunately the pandemic has forced EduMais to close their school and also delayed this project. But the first version of the lesson plan is finished and will be implemented as soon as lessons resume again.

We got in touch with the Association for Progressive Communications through Rhizomatica, a community network organization in Mexico. The APC is an international network of organizations aimed at facilitating the strategic use of ICTs in promoting peace, human rights and the protection of the environment. In cooperation with them we created a COVID-related grant program and offered 5 of their partners the opportunity to apply for a grant of $4000. While working in this, Rhizomatica contacted us with an emergency funding need for communities in the Amazon. Due to the fact that the pandemic was now reaching these remote places, there was increased need to get health and safety information out there to help people stay safe. We supported this project with a financial contribution of $5000.

To get more understanding of what our financial contributions are worth within the scheme of connectivity, we started a ‘what can we do with 10.000 euros’ project with Inveneo. These guys have been working on realizing connectivity in the most difficult places on the planet for years and have a lot of experience. Together with them we started a pilot project around digital literacy for kids in Haiti. It has been so insightful to see how they work, how they set up projects, and what money can buy in this project. Due to the pandemic, setting up the project has been delayed but we are confident that the project will start somewhere in the beginning of 2021.

While talking to the different organizations that work in this world of connectivity, you come across a lot of great ideas. One of these ideas was the ‘internet bank’, a food bank but for the internet. Why does this not exist, we wondered. Especially now that we are in this pandemic, nobody can imagine their lives without internet access. So, we wanted to see if we could realize this. That led to a lot of talking to a lot of different people and organizations and we learned so much. The preliminary conclusion: a lot of people and organizations also feel that this should exist, the challenge is getting it funded. Because using the internet, in other words the data, costs money, it’s as simple as that. We are at the point now that we can start drafting very specific funding applications and we also saved some of our own funds this year to use next year. Our ambition is to realize one, and hopefully even two, pilots in 2021 that will provide internet to families living in poverty for at least a year. During that year we will try our hardest to find structural funding.

We were also able to participate in a panel discussion together with the Norwegian Refugee Council at the at the Nethope Summit regarding a project for connectivity within refugee settings. This project centers around testing a business model for facilitating connectivity within the humanitarian framework. For this project we are working together with Chris Hoffman from HumanityLink. This project has evolved in two parts: facilitating a connectivity collective to keep the conversation about the importance of connectivity in humanitarian settings going and also setting up a pilot in 2021. 

How we grew as a team

We are now a core team of 7 people. Our team is multidisciplinary and we have found that it helps greatly in terms of partnering with other organizations. Because of the pandemic, most of this year has been remote for the whole team. The focus has been on internal communication so everyone in the founding organizations knows what is going on, and how we are moving forward in our mission. We use slack to communicate with each other and with our other colleagues from Voys and Devhouse Spindle.

For our external communication, we worked on creating a strategy that involves the different kinds of content we have to post as well as where we will post it. For communication especially, 2020 was a year to organize and prepare, and 2021 is a year to hit the ground running.

Our financial contributions in 2020

We deliberately chose to distribute our money in incremental contributions in order to keep in pace with learning about what a dollar/euro ‘buys’ in this sector. We also created a guideline for our budget allocation. Our budget is not one big pile of money, but rather we divided it into categories to be spread out during the year. We have a 70/30 division between allocated and unrestricted funds. That means that we have 30% of our budget available for ad hoc contributions that come along during the year.

We started designing our own fundraising and sponsorship model. This is aimed at laying the groundwork for the long-term picture of our partnerships and how we can work towards a more diversified funding model for ourselves. Right now 48percent.org is fully dependent on the funding from Voys and Spindle, which is fine for now. But in the future, we would really like to attract more funds in order to really scale our efforts.

Determining and measuring our impact

Our motto is “everyone contributes their grain of sand” and while we believe that doing something small is as good as doing something big, we still want to measure the impact of the project, no matter the size. Measuring social impact is not an easy feat and we are still in the early stages of determining how best to do this. The ideal way of determining our impact is to measure the direct and indirect effect of our activities to determine whether we are creating or facilitating positive change in the world of your beneficiaries. Because that is our ultimate goal. It’s not the amount of money you spend, or the number of people you reach, it’s the lasting positive change you are able to create for people in need.

Obviously, measuring this accurately is not something you get right on the first try. It is a process of trying, failing, learning, and refining. The more comprehensive our understanding of the actual need of the beneficiaries is, the bigger our ability to instigate sustainable positive change will be. And as we are looking at needs in a wide variety of circumstances, the ‘solution’ will probably come in different shapes and sizes.

So what are we doing in the meantime? We are using the data and metrics we currently have to guide us. Currently, we look at the amount of people we reach through our projects so we can steadily increase this number and increase our potential for impact. For 2020 we directly reached around 4700 people and we financially supported our partners with a total amount around 39.000 EURO.

In 2020 we gradually worked towards becoming a fully functional foundation. Financial contributions were still paid directly through our founding partners. The financial statement for 48percent.org will therefore be integrated into the financial statements of our founding partners.

Continuing on in 2021

While we are proud of all that we accomplished and contributed to in 2020, we know that there is a lot of work to be done. The amount of people not connected to the internet is shrinking, but finding equitable and sustainable solutions is still a challenge. We look forward to working with our partners, forming new relationships with similar organizations, and continuing to mature as a foundation in 2021 and the years ahead.

Connectivity at Kopila Valley School in Nepal

We started a partnership with BlinkNow after meeting co-founder Maggie Doyne in early 2020 to provide an internet connection at the Kopila Valley school in Nepal. At the time we started this partnership, none of us knew just how important connectivity would become.

Q&A with Maggie

To help us paint a picture of the effect having connectivity made on the students and teachers there, and what challenges still exist in Nepal and other countries where connectivity is not always a given, we asked Maggie to answer some questions. Her answers discuss topics such as how connectivity is used at the Kopila Valley school, the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the digital divide, and what the future looks like for a more digital Kopila Valley school.

What was your plan for using the internet at Kopila Valley before COVID-19 changed priorities? 

Our goal before covid hit was to leverage online learning platforms and make them more accessible to our students at different grade levels. It has also been to increase wifi accessibility across the campus (from the early childhood area, to the science lab, to the admin building and vocational site) as well as continuing to train and capacity build computer and internet skills amongst our educational team and leadership.

Across campus, WiFi was available for all staff, teachers and leadership. Our team used connectivity to create lesson plans, conduct research, participate in online training sessions, and communicate with each other via email on a lesser basis. Our students have access to wifi and the internet during their computer classes in our computer lab.

In classrooms campus-wide, the internet was primarily used to show videos or project online content for students. This varied for more advanced subjects where students were expected to conduct online research for various projects, such as their +2 Management capstone project.

What are some examples of how the internet was used?

One area where the internet and technology equipment made a life-changing difference on our students is our Futures Center. Here the internet was used to help students research opportunities for their futures. From college and university programs to career exploration, the digital connectivity of our Futures Center allowed our students to be better prepared for what lies ahead.

Some sustainability projects on campus also depend on internet connectivity. A new project – Cultivating Pathway to Sustainability – brings together international schools to share their green ideas. The learning group connects students from schools in the United States, from countries across Europe, and includes ten Kopila Valley students. They hold meetings online, select the best “green” proposals from students, and support its implementations. Having quality technology and the internet allows these students to build international relationships and stay current on global sustainability efforts.

How has the access to the internet changed what the kids are able to learn?

Access to the internet on our campus has virtually opened up the world to our students. Our teachers can incorporate diverse and interactive learning materials for our younger students, while our older students can access wider opportunities because of their access to the internet. Simply put, it opens up the world to our students. For younger students, it influences their learning. For our older students, it allows them to dream bigger, and access better resources for their futures. It also allows them to pursue various different interests they may have like learning guitar on youtube or how to code, or an art technique, a new recipe to try out when they are on dinner duty at our children’s home.

What new challenges are there now due to the increase in digital device usage?

Like all schools and families, we’re aware of the need to balance types of learning. We understand the power that digital learning has, and how much it can expand a child’s ability to learn. At the same time, we have to strike the right balance between digital and non-digital learning. We need to keep our kids safe while making sure they’re also prepared for a successful future in an increasingly digital world.

Safety is a major concern for our organization. In our community, the internet is a primary medium that leads to early marriage or eloped students. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty when these students do not complete their 10th-grade examinations. It also leads to various physical and emotional traumas. When we open up access to the internet and devices to our students, their online safety needs to be taken into utmost consideration. We address this through awareness training classes and group discussions with targeted demographics.

One of our other issues is that kids don’t have internet at their homes or access to devices. This was really hard during covid when the rest of the world had to pivot to online learning.

What do your kids use the internet for?

Students at Kopila Valley School use the internet for a variety of academic and extracurricular activities.

Many of our grade-12 students are required to complete a capstone project, which requires them to pick a topic and perform detailed research. The students used the internet to develop questionnaires, perform surveys in their community, analyze survey data and information, and present the findings using academic journals to back up their research. In our middle grade speaking class, students do internet research for their chosen speaking topics. They then deliver class presentations based on their research topics.

One of our older students, R, shares what access to the Futures Center meant for him. “For the past few months, I’ve been using the program’s resources to do research for colleges and apply online. Resources here, such as computers, printers, and the internet, have been life-changing for me and many others before me.”

Students also enjoy using the technology resources available to them to expand their interests outside of the classroom as well. “My brothers and I sat down together in front of a computer with a guitar on hand. We browsed through lots of Youtube videos on guitar lessons, and we managed to learn basic guitar in just three months,” said S, a grade 10 student. While an 8th grade student, Y, shared, “My friends and I wanted to learn gymnastics, and we went online and learned it.”

Kopila Valley students using a computer during class
Photo by BlinkNow

What challenges do your kids and others in similar situations face because of school closings during 2020?

When we decided to close our campus because of COVID-19, our entire team understood the importance of keeping our students safe. Unfortunately, we were also all aware of the strain this would put on our students. Unlike schools in more resource-rich areas of the world, we couldn’t transition to online learning, as our students don’t have access to the internet or digital devices at home. So we had to get creative, making physical copies of workbooks and calling students each week on their family phones, or making in-person socially distanced visits, to make sure they were understanding the materials as best as they could.

Has the huge pivot to being digital influenced these challenges?

Our students are lucky to attend a school that is on the cutting edge of education in Nepal. In recent years we’ve been increasing the use of digital resources in our classrooms and campus-wide, with the goal of one-day reaching levels of access for our students that is equal to their peers around the world. Our students had adapted to this type of learning and were flourishing with digital access. So when this access suddenly had to stop, it made quite an impact on our students. Many of our older students faced the additional challenge of college applications—which are primarily online—and were faced with missed deadlines, struggling to get information, and feeling uncertain about their futures.

How do you see the digital divide changing because of the COVID pandemic?

The digital divide has only grown stronger for our students in Surkhet due to the COVID pandemic. Our students had to transition from spending time on campus with robust digital access, with classes and labs that allowed them to “have the world at their fingertips”, to learning at home with no access to the internet or online programs during the strictly enforced lockdowns that our community faced. In more resource-rich and connected schools in Kathmandu and internationally, students were forced to ramp up their computer skills at a younger age to utilize the new systems and processes including daily class conference calls, online assignments and grades, and other online learning resources. We believe that while our distance learning program had a lot of positive benefits, specifically compared to schools in our community, working under a distance model set our students’ digital literacy back a year across the board. It’s difficult to measure the full impacts that this will have on our students, however, we realize we have work to do to ramp up our digital literacy on campus.

Where do we go from here?

As we’re beginning to slowly re-open our campus, we’re so excited that connectivity on our campus is allowing us to serve more students. We recently implemented our 5-phase plan for bringing students back to campus. Like many schools around the world, part of this plan includes smaller classroom sizes and alternating days on-campus for our students. Thankfully, our campus has numerous physical spaces, and because our spaces are so digitally connected, we’ve found ways to allow students to come to school each day and learn via live streaming content from a teacher across multiple rooms. This means our students have access to some of the very important supplemental services our campus provides, including meals, social work wellness checks, and our medical clinic, while still allowing for small classroom sizes and socially-distanced learning.

While working and learning remotely, we encountered an increase in social impacts within our community. A major focus for 2021 will be to increase access to services such as counseling and home visit social work to support specific family needs.  We are using technology to enable this process by implementing a new digital case management system. This will enable us to log and track all case details, monitor progress, and improve our follow-up on high-priority cases. 

Additionally, as our technology needs grow, we envision hiring key staff members to lead out technology initiatives. This would include a technology manager, systems administrator, and support technician to oversee all technology-related functions at our school. We also want to improve our computer studies course to focus on applied learning over computer theory. This starts by hiring a computer studies teacher.

Photo by BlinkNow

How does connectivity play a role in the future of the kids at Kopila valley?

We see the need to expand access to technology on campus. This will help us be able to quickly adapt our approach to promoting the continuation of learning. Moving forward we hope to increase the number of computers on our campus. We also hope to continue to train our students and staff to integrate digital technology into the classroom. This started with computer procurement for our older students to ensure access is readily available and will eventually work its way down to lower grades. We are working with our teaching staff to increase digital literacy and its use in the classroom. This will include hiring a technology education trainer to teach us best practices.

Our goal is to make sure our students leave the Kopila Valley School prepared to enter the world with the right experiences to be successful in our increasingly more digital world, prepared just as their global peers are to tackle the challenges they face and have robust, fulfilling careers and lives.

About BlinkNow: BlinkNow is changing the world by empowering Nepal’s children. We help some of the most impoverished kids in one of the world’s most remote regions build the extraordinary lives they deserve. We understand that children can thrive when all their needs are met. Kids need a safe home, nutritious food, an excellent education, quality healthcare, a strong community, and lots of love! BlinkNow is providing all of that and more, so that every child has a chance to unleash their potential on the world!

About Maggie Doyne: Maggie is originally from New Jersey and has dedicated the last 10+ years of her life to educating children and empowering women. She was the recipient of the 2015 CNN Hero of the Year award and her work has been recognized by the Dalai Lama, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Kristof, Katie Couric, and Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex. While Maggie’s work as CEO is focused on Nepal, she speaks all over the world in the hope of inspiring others to start projects of their own that will generate positive change.
All photos for this blog post were taken and provided by BlinkNow

Supporting accessibility through APC grants

We are pleased to announce that through a partnership with APC, 48percent.org is supporting five grassroots organizations around the world in their efforts to strengthen their community networks. These grants will go to help each organization as they work to mitigate the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for them.

About the supporting organizations

The mission of 48percent.org is to facilitate equality through access to open communication. We believe that the way to do that is by supporting other organizations in their efforts, whether it be through donating our time and resources, or through financial contributions. We were fortunate to come into contact with the APC, who in turn was able to connect us with grassroots organizations to whom we could contribute grants in order to support their continuing efforts.

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network of almost 60 civil society organizations founded in 1990. The network is dedicated to empowering and supporting people working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies. APC’s mission is to create a just and sustainable world by harnessing the collective power of activists, organizations, excluded groups, communities and social movements, to challenge existing power structures and ensure that the internet is developed and governed as a global public good.

Local Networks (LocNet) is an initiative led by APC in partnership with Rhizomatica to contribute to an enabling ecosystem for the emergence and growth of community networks and other community-based connectivity activities in developing countries. This initiative is part of APC’s strategy to address digital exclusion. APC’s partnership with 48percent.org is exciting as it is building a new ground for collaboration to strengthen the efforts being done to directly support the work of community networks.

How the collaboration came to be

While researching community networks, the name Rhizomatica kept popping up so it was an easy decision to get in touch with them. After a great first talk we learned about APC and its pathfinder grants. As 48percent.org is a young foundation, we don’t have the international reach and infrastructure that APC has, so when Rhizomatica proposed that we could work together and use their already existing infrastructure to issue a COVID-19-related granting call, we immediately jumped at the opportunity.

With the help of Rhizomatica, we created a special grant-call for the organizations that previously received pathfinder grants and asked them what the effects of COVID-19 are on their projects. We got 15 wonderfully inspirational applications from community networks all around the world and after long debate we picked the five projects that spoke to us and our mission as a foundation the most.

Just the beginning

From this partnership with Rhizomatica and APC, we were introduced to five fantastic projects actively working towards what we believe in – equitable access to connectivity. Next to that we have learned a lot about grant programs as well as about community network projects.

To hear more about these projects and how they are progressing, keep an eye on our social media channels for updates about each project. You can find us on twitter and LinkedIn.

About the initiatives

AlterMundi – Argentina

AlterMundi has many years of experience in promoting community networks and all the aspects that make them sustainable like training, maintaining mesh networks, development of free and open software and political-regulatory advocacy.

With the grant, three selected rural communities will be able to start their own network and connect it to the internet, narrowing the digital divide during COVID-19. In addition the funding will also go to the installation of 12 LibreRouter mesh Wi-Fi routers that each will connect at least one family and in most cases more families in the communities.

Fantsuam – Nigeria

Fantsuam is an organization whose mission is to empower community members to find means of employment and income and meet their own development needs. ICT services are an important part of their work. People living with disabilities are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even under normal circumstances, people with disabilities have less access to education, healthcare and income opportunities, which is only exacerbated by the current situation.

With this grant, Fantsuam will provide 50 people in the Kafanchan area with devices, airtime, digital literacy training and information on how to obtain other funding opportunities provided by the government to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on households and individuals. Many people with disabilities are not aware of these services nor do they have the knowledge of how, or means to access them, especially those living in rural and remote communities.

Bosco – Uganda

Bosco is a leading non-profit organization in the area of ICT and community networks in Uganda. Internet access in the most rural parts of Uganda is either non-existent or not affordable. With the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic the government of Uganda proposes to distribute educational information, market information and agronomic information through television and radio, but this is often not suited or accessible only to a few.

With the grant, Bosco wants to establish two new hotspot sites (in addition to the 32 Bosco Uganda ICT centres already established). Through the intranet, they will liaise with the ministry to provide accurate health information and create awareness on the availability of online materials for students. In addition to this the Wi-Fi hotspots will also help in spreading information on the coming elections which will mostly likely be conducted online.

REDES – Mexico

Redes por la Diversidad, Equidad y Sustentabilidad A.C. (REDES A.C) is a civil association that works to create conditions that allow indigenous people to have their own media that meet their principles and values, as well as access to non-indigenous media without discrimination. One of the ways they do this is through the generation of telecommunication projects with indigenous communities.

Because the COVID-19 strategy leans heavily on digital responses, this has made the demand for the internet in rural and indigenous communities indispensable. As commercial models of connectivity are not compatible within the context of many of the indigenous communities, REDES A.C., together with their partners, is seeking to generate a sustainable project that works with an alternative model of connectivity that guarantees the communities access to the internet and the dissemination of information. The grant will go to improving the licensing process for spectrum use, acquisition of new equipment to improve the infrastructure, and training, design and practices of optical fibre installation.

Servelots – India

Servelots, together with Janastu, have been engaging with Wi-Fi mesh networking since 2004 after the tsunami havoc on the east coast of South India. Over the last year they have set up a community network in their rural lab area to experiment and deploy new initiatives. After the COVID-19 lockdown and the shutdown of schools, poor agricultural and daily wage earning parents have been struggling to get school sessions over the web to their children. To counter this, Servelots and their collective will introduce “webinar” Raspberry Pi for small low-income neighborhood clusters to facilitate online classroom sessions. The project will take place in a valley where internet speed is low and spotty.

As part of the grant, they will realize a high speed Wi-Fi connection from a nearby town, connect the village clusters to the mesh network and provide open sources and Raspberry Pi-based webinar devices to ensure inter cluster and school teacher sessions. With this project they wish to demonstrate that this could be an inclusive alternative for students who cannot afford individual smartphones.

48percent.org: From idea to reality

‘This foundation is the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose’…..imagine hearing that on your first day at a new job. Facilitating equality by enabling access to unrestricted communication is your focus, you have 1% of the revenue and 5% of the worked hours, and 48% of the world does not have access to the internet yet, GO!

I felt excited, scared, humbled, nervous, and a whole bunch of other emotions, all at the same time. To avoid succumbing to ‘deer in the headlights’ mode, I turned to what I was trained to do as a historian: research and creating order in chaos. History is beautiful chaos and historians love researching it in order to understand it. That is my default mode, so that is what I did.

The three pillars of the 48percent.org mission

Why was 48% of the world not using the internet? This question led to very interesting findings that started to shape the basis of a foundation strategy. Access, although still a serious issue, is definitely not the end of the story. Digital skills play a huge role in internet usage. Awareness about how to be safe online has a great impact on how people use the internet, as well as the benefits they receive from using the internet. Because what it boils down to is, internet connectivity is a means to an end, or rather a lot of different ends. For us, one of the ends is increasing access to opportunities and a more equal world. With these ideals in mind, I was able to create the three pillars of our mission: access, skills, and awareness.

Finding where we fit

With those three pillars to guide and sharpen our focus, I looked at what we had to offer. We have funding, time, drive, a tech-savvy mindset, and the power of two successful businesses supporting us. Our starting position was luxurious in the sense that we did not have to go looking for funding, but instead find a way to make sure that our resources reached the right places. As we are not the ones on the ground, working with grassroots organizations makes a lot of sense. By working with these organizations, we learn a lot about the problems and possible solutions in different situations and communities. That was our first step, finding wonderful organizations doing work that fit with our pillars and asking them how we could support them and their mission.

While talking to these organizations we often heard about wonderful and inspiring ideas they had that would really help their beneficiary communities. But, as it often goes, there are lots of good ideas but too little time to work on them. And that got me thinking, in addition to funds, the other thing we had plenty of was time. Time to nurture a great idea and see if we can bring it further. Time to find out what is needed, to write the project plan, get all the different pieces of the puzzle on board, to find additional funding, etc. Time to do all the things that are needed to make sure the separate pieces can focus on what they do best. Essentially, time to be the convener for all the parts that need to be put together in order to create something bigger.

Putting what we have learned to use

As a result of distilling our purpose into goals and talking to other organizations, I came to have the following: pillars to guide our journey and the ways in which we can help. With this knowledge in mind, we have begun to move from being a purpose-driven idea into a functioning foundation actively working to facilitate access to communication. We count each partnership with another organization, whether it be to contribute financially or through time, as both a chance to support those in need and a learning opportunity for ourselves to help us grow.

So far, this has led us to supporting 10 (grassroots) organizations in 10 countries. Additionally, we are in the process of nurturing three inspiring ideas into pilots. And last but not least, we have a multidisciplinary team of 7 driven colleagues dedicated to the 48percent mission and operating as a smooth remote team for over 6 months now. And we are only getting started. If the journey I mentioned raises questions in your head, if you have an idea that we might be able to help with, or you want to share your (similar) experiences, feel free to send us an email or message us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Pollien van Keulen is the spearhead of the foundation. She contributes her non-profit knowledge and genuine belief in our mission to make sure that the foundation moves forward both in the strategic and administrative sense.
When she isn’t busy with 48percent or coordinating the education and sponsorship efforts of Devhouse Spindle and Voys, she loves reading, crafting, and working on her tiny house.

Projects 2020 – a look at our partnerships

Over the last months we have been busy supporting projects as well as working on creating new projects with partner organizations, all while having the goal of equal communication in mind. Here is an overview of the projects and our partners. If you would like to read more detailed information about each project, click on the project title to go to the project page.

APC Grants 2020 – We were able to partner with Rhizomatica and their partner APC to give grants to 5 projects to support them in realizing their goals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BlinkNowBlinkNow works in the community in Surkhet, Nepal. We made a financial contribution that provided their school with WiFi and laptops for the school administrators.

EduMais – We are working with EduMais to create privacy lessons for underprivileged children and teenagers in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. These lessons will supplement the curriculum EduMais already provides and will create awareness for digital privacy.

Rhizomatica and Kara Solar – We made a financial contribution that enabled Rhizomatica and Kara Solar to connect 2 of the 12 indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon to their radio network.

War Child – One of War Child’s programs is Can’t Wait to Learn. This program offers children the opportunity to learn to read and count through playing educational games played on tablet devices. Our financial contribution provided more tablets for the program.

From commercial to non-profit networking

As part of the Voys sales team, I spend a lot of my working time networking and communicating with other businesses and organizations.

My insights on being a salesperson in a non-profit organization

As part of the Voys sales team, I spend a lot of my working time networking and communicating with other businesses and organizations. On many occasions I have come into contact with non-profit organizations. Most of the time they just need your support to help them achieve their mission and goals. I take the time to listen to what they have to say and I ask questions to see what they have to “sell”.

During these conversations, I have always wondered what it’s like for a salesperson in a non-profit organization, but for some reason I have never asked this question out loud. Is their work so different from the work of a salesperson in a commercial company? Recently I had the opportunity within our company to move from working solely with the sales team to spending some time helping establish 48percent.org. This gave me the opportunity to answer my own questions and in this blog post I will share with you what I found.

My role within 48percent.org

Last November 48percent.org officially became a foundation. Although I have been only contributing to the organization since then, I have followed its development since the beginning. I really felt connected to the mission. Equality is something I have always strived for and acted upon, inside and outside of my work. When I came to know that they were looking for someone that could help them grow the partner network, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer.

We are a young foundation and are therefore busy with expanding our partner network. We want to learn from other foundations and organizations with a social purpose. In addition, we realize that we can make the greatest impact when we work together. This is enough reason to get in touch with other fellow fighters and schedule a meeting with them. Making new connections is something I like to do and this is familiar territory for me. So I am happy to take on this task!

First contact with other organizations

There are plenty of non-profit organizations in the Netherlands that connect with one or more of our program lines, so we decided to get in contact with those organizations first. There are a couple of benefits starting with organizations close to home. Making contact in your native language is a little bit easier and this way we can do the first interviews face to face when possible, or digitally over video chat. My experience is that it’s way easier to connect with someone when you can see them and you get more impactful information from your conversations this way.

Just like I have always done in my other commercial roles, I started searching the internet for organizations that fit our target group. Once I had this list completed I tried to get in contact with the right person. Most of the people I get to talk to are very open and enthusiastic about what they and their organization are doing. Even on the phone you can feel the passion they have for their work and are open to scheduling a personal appointment.

One thing I found striking was, just like in the commercial world, it is difficult to get in touch with the right person right away. Here too, of course, everyone is busy and in many cases people work voluntarily and do this work alongside their current job. Scheduling an appointment once you do find the right person, on the other hand, is a lot easier. In many cases I was invited immediately. I think this is because we don’t come to sell anything, but are sincerely interested in what they do. And vice versa, I have come to notice that they are also very interested in what we do and how we might be able to help each other achieve our goal. Helping each other should always be the goal, but in the commercial world not everybody sees it this way.

Face to face conversations

At the beginning of this year, we made our first visits. Together with colleague Pollien van Keulen, our strategist, we visited ICT vanaf Morgen and Warchild. The latter organization is more globally known, I think. Last year we contributed to one of their inspiring projects; Can’t wait to Learn. And recently, I also visited Stichting RRDF and had a video conference with Free Press Unlimited. All of these organizations have a couple things in common: they are working toward a very good cause and they have lots of experience and expertise.

To be ready for these meetings, I prepared a document with interview questions beforehand. I use this as a guideline however, because I don’t want to be too inflexible and I always let the interview run its course. Between the passion of these people and our sincere interest, all our questions are usually answered through the natural course of conversation. We are curious as to what’s the most beautiful thing they have achieved as an organization, but also as to how they got their funding, the biggest obstacles they encountered and whether they would have done things differently afterwards et cetera. We like to conclude by asking  whether they have any tips for us and what help they could use from us.

Our learnings from these conversations so far

It is becoming clearer that we can make little impact on our own. Instead, collaborating with other organizations is the key to success when you want to make the greatest possible impact. The experience is that everyone is really open to this. I love it!

Another take-away from these conversations I learned is when working on projects across borders, it is important that you delve deeply into the cultural differences with a country. Take the time to ask questions locally and listen to what people and organizations have to say. It seems logical and obvious, but every organization makes the mistake of plunging into something very quickly out of enthusiasm and thinking that only good intentions will do the trick. Of course you also don’t want to wait forever to take action. Somewhere you have to find a middle ground in this.

But how do these interactions compare?

Looking for other organizations and getting in touch with the right people doesn’t differ much from those experiences in the commercial world. You have to be driven to make new connections and network. Being proactive is key!

From the first moment you get in touch with someone, the work changes compared to a commercial job. Once these organizations or people know what you are doing as an organization and what your intention is, they open up much faster. Seems logical, because in the first place you aren’t selling anything, and in the second place you both want to make the world a little bit better. It starts with the first call. People are very open and give you lots of information. I am even quickly invited to pay them a visit. How cool is that, I don’t even have to ask! During the actual face to face meeting they tend to open up even more and you see the spark in their eyes. It’s so awesome to see when people really talk passionately about their work. This gives me great energy and motivation.

Passion for the subject makes talking easy

So to answer my main question: Being a salesperson in a non-profit world is awesome! The basic work you do is about the same, but making connections is easier and you go more into depth. And the fact that you are doing something to make the world a better place gives you a great feeling. Although I always have a lot of fun connecting with people and selling services and products, it’s nice that I don’t have to try so hard. The conversations I have feel more equal. This makes sense, because we are all passionate about our purpose and we really do need each other to make a difference.

Still there is lots more to learn from our partners. They have so many years of experience. So we will continue having these conversations and sharing our learnings. I’d like to give a big shout out to all of those that took the time to share their knowledge with us. You have been very helpful and your passion is motivating!

In sharing my experience and insights, I hope that it has given you food for thought, as well as raised some questions. I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on this subject, just leave a comment below or on our social posts. We are always looking for people to have more conversations, so if you are interested, get in touch!


About the author: Arnoud Oosten contributes his positivity and networking skills to make the 48percent.org partner community grow. When he isn’t busy helping us or growing the reseller network from Voys, he is his connecting with his friends and trying to stay in shape.

From Instagram inspiration to collaborating foundations

One Wednesday earlier this year I got a message from Pollien. Pollien is my colleague and also spearheads 48percent.org.

Pollien: Hi! I saw that Maggie is coming to the Netherlands, do you want to go? I want to.

Me: Yes definitely!

So we bought two tickets to the ‘Share the Love Valentine’s Day Fundraising Event for BlinkNow’ on February 14th, 2020.

‘Who is Maggie?’, I can hear you thinking. We were talking about Maggie Doyne, the CEO and co-founder of BlinkNow. BlinkNow is a foundation on a mission to change the world by empowering Nepal’s children. They do this by providing quality education, a safe environment, and through inspiring others.

The BlinkNow story

In 2005 – when she was 19 years old – Maggie went on a gap year to India through the organization Leap Now. At the end of that year she was traveling, and while she was in Nepal she met Hima. That’s where everything started. Hima was a young girl she saw breaking and selling stones on the street. One of the hundreds of orphans that earned money this way. Each day Maggie walked past Hima. Each day she was greeted by the girl. More and more Maggie realized she couldn’t keep walking by without doing something. ‘Saving’ all of the orphans, that was an impossible task. ‘But what if I can mean something for this one girl?’ With that thought in mind she registered Hima at a school, paid her school fees, and bought her a uniform.

She spent the $5,000 that she saved from baby sitting on helping other children. With that money and more fundraising efforts, she bought a piece of land and built a Children’s home for 50 children, all of whom she adopted. In 2010 she opened a school that welcomes 400 children every year. She doesn’t do this alone, but rather together with her partner in crime, Top Bahadur Malla.

How I heard about Maggie

In 2016 Floortje Dessing made an episode about Maggie Doyne. This episode made a deep impression on me and many others. So much so that I started to follow her on Instagram. And that brings us back to the part of the story where I got the message from Pollien. She was coming to the Netherlands and we could meet her! She was in the country to participate in an episode of ‘Floortje terug naar het einde van de wereld (Floortje goes back to the end of the world)’. (You can watch the Dutch-language episode here).

Going to the event

I’m always too early and that day, of course, we were too early as well. The event was at the Luther Museum in Amsterdam. We were greeted by the volunteers working at the event. There was a bit of a chaotic atmosphere around us since they were still setting stuff up. We walked in feeling a little uncomfortable. We were the first. Oh wait, luckily someone else was also there.

There were scarves being sold, beautiful scarves. We both bought one. We found them gorgeous and our purchases led to the real question going through both of our heads– where are we going to sit and how will we tackle networking? Eventually, we found a strategic place where we could have a nice view of the whole event area.

Sharing our stories and our passion

And then -I’m not really sure anymore how- we were approached by Ashley. Ashley Dittmar is the Director of Development at BlinkNow. She started talking to us, and of course we talked about ‘our foundation’. She was enthusiastic. So much so that she asked Maggie to come over. We talked more about 48percent.org. We explained our mission to promote equality in the word through access to communication and stimulating the use of Information and Communication Technology. We further explained that we did this by making contributions to reduce obstacles in using the internet, such as accessibility, affordability, and the lack of the necessary knowledge and well as promoting access to free communication.

We talked about a possible collaboration between the two foundations. We couldn’t be happier. We connected on Linkedin and hugs were exchanged.

Then Maggie needed to go so she could give her talk. The story she told was recognizable. We already knew a lot from the tv show episodes and the Instagram posts. But some details we didn’t know. She told us about how she had to go back to the United States to earn money the only way that was available – through baby-sitting.

Furthermore, the contribution of foundation co-founder and Kopila Valley chairman Top Bahadur Malla was especially impressive; both his story and his life journey.  After serving for more than 15 years in Ramana’s Garden, a project for Nepalese refugees in India, Top decided to go back to his native country and found Kopila. Top grew up in a small village in the Himalayas where he became an orphan at a young age. Kopila is his way of giving children in his country the childhood he always dreamed of. As Maggie’s foundation partner, Top is responsible for the on-site development, supervision, and management of Kopila Valley.

Goodbye is not always the end

After the speech the people slowly floated away. We talked quickly again with Ashley and promised to plan a conference call soon. As we left, we were both looking forward to the collaboration and my head was already full of plans and ideas. We hope to share those plans soon, so keep an eye out for more information coming soon!


About the author: Yvanka Hullegie-Vletter contributes her legal knowledge, non-profit experience, and her enthusiasm for education to 48percent.org. When she isn’t busy helping us or running the legal department of Voys and Devhouse Spindle, she is spending time with her family and writing wonderful stories about them.

World Connectivity in numbers

When discussing something as large-scale as global connectivity, using data helps to gain perspective on words like “global” and “most”. To get everyone on the same page about what data and facts we are referencing when working on our mission to facilitate access to unrestricted communication, we wanted to share the most current numbers we found and our thoughts on them. 

The big picture

Over 95% of the world is covered by mobile GSM 2G narrowband services. Even in the world’s poorest countries, labelled by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 2G coverage is also around 90%. The spread of 2G has had a great impact on the accessibility of voice communication. It has also stimulated the development of applications such as mobile money and agricultural and health related text message services. 

Virtually every country in the world has launched 3G mobile broadband networks. And about ⅔ of the world’s poorest countries have commercially deployed 4G networks. Impressive right? And in addition to all this mobile internet, an exciting space race for satellite broadband internet is under way with big companies with deep pockets sending more satellites up in space than ever thought possible. Universal internet coverage, be it mobile or satellite broadband and IoT, is within our grasp and will probably be realised in one way or another in the near future. 

Where is the gap?

How is it then, that more than 40% of the world population is still offline? The short answer is: because global connectivity is not the endgame, unrestricted usage is. Don’t get me wrong, the spread of global connectivity is doing a lot of good. That is why the United Nations has universal access as one of their targets for 2020 within the Sustainable Development Goals framework. However, simply getting the connectivity everywhere will not solve the entire problem. Connectivity is a prerequisite for usage, not a guarantee. 

Digital divide

Let’s go back to the numbers;  looking at this data on a global level is misleading because even though 90% of LDCs is covered by 2G, 10% is not. And for this 10% progress is slow. Bringing connectivity to these rural and remote areas is expensive and difficult so most commercial telecom operators, the big driving forces in expanding mobile connectivity in LDCs more urban areas, will not expand their services to these areas. 

High costs + low income of consumers in the region = no commercial incentive

Companies such as Hiber offer very interesting solutions to these areas with a low cost low power IoT satellite connectivity. 

How internet factors in

For broadband internet, the balance is even more askew.  Even though worldwide mobile 3G coverage is around 50%, the divide between developed countries and LDCs is 90% vs 20%. And for 4G networks, coverage is mainly limited to urban areas with more rural areas having no coverage at all. Fixed broadband penetration is extremely low in LDCs, e.g. Sub Saharan Africa has penetration rates of 1% or even lower. So there is a huge digital divide, especially when looking at broadband technology. 

The affordability factor

A large obstacle preventing people from using the internet available to them is affordability, especially when looking at the world’s poorest countries. LDCs have the highest relative mobile broadband prices at about 14% of the average monthly income. In comparison, developed countries have prices at less than 5% of the average monthly income. In addition to the cost of usage of the internet, there are also the costs of adjacent necessities such as devices and electricity that are adding to the affordability problem. 

Why is the internet relatively more expensive in LDCs than developed countries? The answer is a combination of reasons. Often, mobile internet markets are dominated by a small number of commercial operators so there is a lack of competition. Regulatory frameworks are slowing down innovations in spectrum usage that could drive prices down. Tax regulations and import taxes are also adding to the bill. Combine that with the fact that a lot of the telecom operators only offer prepaid data bundles, which are notoriously more expensive, and you have a recipe for a very expensive internet. 

The role of education

A large part of the offline population is uneducated. Research shows that education levels are one of the most important indicators as to whether people use the internet. The reason for this is twofold: a lot of schools nowadays have access to the internet so children attending (secondary) schools are familiarized with using Information and Communication Technologies as well as being taught the necessary skills and knowledge for using the internet. In addition to this, awareness of the benefits of internet usage is more prevalent in people who have secondary school education. Also issues such as privacy, data usage and secure internet usage are more familiar to people having received secondary education.

Always changing

The situation around global connectivity as well as the facts and figures that illustrate the situation are constantly changing. The good news is that the number of internet users worldwide is steadily climbing. When we first started thinking about our foundation in 2018, 48% of the world population was not using the internet. Today, that number is just above 40%. By keeping in mind the issues of affordability and education levels, the available connectivity will continue to grow.  

These rising numbers are further aided by the attention given to the problem by the target set by the UN in their SDG framework. This results in cooperation by a lot of organisations, both commercial and non-profit, and governmental programs working to connect the world. We are eager to see what happens to these numbers in the future. 

Connecting the world through free communication

In 2003 I worked in Haiti for roughly six months. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. After an 11-hour flight, you go from a country that has everything to a country that has nothing. In Haiti, I saw what a lack of access to information and communication does to a country and its people.

Today, 48% of the world’s population still has no access to free communication. This needs to change. With 48percent.org we want to bring equality to the world by enabling that last 48% to have access to unrestricted communication.

The plan to make this happen

There were a number of basic essential conditions for us to be able to make this a reality: a strong income stream, being a communication authority, and a scalable self-reliant organization. Now that these conditions are met, we can get started on building the solution. We believe this solution consists of roughly three parts:

1. You need a data network. These can be balloonslow orbit satellite networks or drones that bring that data network to remote areas.
2. Then you need a base station that translates the signal from these data networks into a local network.
3. Finally, you must have devices that use this local network.

That’s easy, right?

It sounds simple and achievable, but unfortunately, it is not. The big bottleneck is electricity. Approximately 15% of the world’s population has no access to electricity, and things like WiFi and 4G demand a lot of it. A new generation of networks and receivers that are much more energy efficient needs to be built. Only then can the 48 percent of the world that does not yet have access to free communication be brought online.

The need for a reliable network

But with electricity alone, you are not there yet. A reliable network also has to be set up. This network is preferably an open source and crowd owned network. Any node added to the network can then be both a receiver and a transmitter. This makes the network independent of commercial parties and even of government authorities. Developing this network circularly also keeps the impact this project has on the planet to a minimum.

The 48percent.org foundation

In recent years we have developed the building blocks to be able to build the above framework. Now is time to stack those blocks! We’re very excited for this to happen and we are setting up a foundation for this purpose: 48percent.org.

The mantra of this foundation is:

“Bring equality to the world by enabling everybody to have access to unrestricted communication”

The first step is to promote the development of the components needed for open communication. We don’t have to do all of this ourselves, but we love to boost the process.

Generating power: the Lightyear One

The decentralized generation of power is a very important component to make it all possible. Looking at the latest technology, we already made a promising first purchase: we bought the Lightyear One. This solar car decentrally generates its own electricity and stores it in small batteries while giving an unmatched range for the capacity of these batteries. The team that developed the car has access to the networks that can make the solar and battery technology scalable and works, just like us, purpose-driven.