Companies Bridging the Digital Divide
Every year, new startups pull to the forefront of their industry through exciting innovation and industry-disrupting business models. We’ve rounded up several startup companies bridging the digital divide that startup-lovers, investors, and aspiring entrepreneurs should follow.
Disclaimer: With so many exciting startups launching and growing worldwide, we aren’t able to cover them all. Furthermore, the startups that are listed below are not officially ranked and are listed in no particular order.
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Funding: Series Unknown, $4.2 Million
BRCK is a Kenyan startup that seeks to solve the issue of spotty internet connectivity in many poorer countries in the world. This interrupted connectivity often adversely affects tech communities and sometimes the economy. BRCK's founder, Juliana Rotich, has helped to develop a robust router that can search between networks for available signals even if electrical connections are not available.
Location: Bengaluru, India
Funding: Series B, $29.8 Million
Lokal is an Indian startup that describes itself as a hyperlocal social media platform enabling local merchants and consumers to connect, conduct business, and share information in India. CEO and founder Jani Pasha says that the digital divide in India started on a foundational basis and it has been significantly highlighted by the pandemic when many children missed out on significant periods of schooling because they were unable to access online classes. The business space has suffered just as much from this divide, and Lokal hopes to start closing that gap on a city-by-city basis.
3. AMK Microfinance Institution
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Funding: Debt Financing, $7.5 Million
AMK Microfinance Institution is a Cambodian finance startup with a new product it hopes will bridge the gap for small-scale and subsistence farmers. Their mobile app provides rural farmers with access to financial services as well as market and farming information. Data indicates that 100% of Cambodians have mobile phone connections, but 24% of rural farmers own a smartphone. AMK doesn't believe this needs to be a stumbling point, though, as they will also partner with other members of the farming community such as government staff, NGO workers, suppliers, and credit officers who do have access to smartphones and will provide access to the app for the farmer.
4. ChapChap Africa
Location: Kampala, Uganda
Funding: Seed, Undisclosed Amount
ChapChap Africa's co-founder and managing director, Emmanuel Emodek, created this digital divide-bridging startup after recognizing the potential of digital connectivity in transforming the informal economy of his home country, Uganda. ChapChap's point-of-sale mobile app is designed for small and medium enterprises to aid in tracking their sales, inventory, and expenses. Emodek says that low-income customers can even pay their water and power bills via the app at competitive rates.
5. Digital Divide Data
Location: New York, New York
Funding: Series Unknown, $2.1 Million
Digital Divide Data is a startup helping to bridge the digital divide by providing employment opportunities and university education through world-class outsourcing services. The company focuses on helping under-resourced communities to access the type of educational services and employment opportunities that they would otherwise never see.
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Funding: Series B, €1.2 Million
510.Ventures is a Dutch startup whose tagline is literally "helping to bridge the digital divide." The company uses research, development, tech, and digital ecosystems in what it calls its mission to help shape the postmodern era. Their products include open development tools to seamlessly integrate business environments, especially in less-connected areas such as their pilot project in Rwanda.
Location: San Francisco, California
Funding: Seed, $5.2 Million
Ready is a software startup that helps local internet service providers (ISPs) to connect more subscribers to better broadband services in areas where more advanced internet services are not available. Among its services for ISPs, Ready includes access to broadband grants for development, open-source and ad-free measurement tools, and a locals-first ISP directory.
8. Reverie Language Technologies (Acquired by Reliance Industries)
Location: Bengaluru, India
Funding: Non-Equity Assistance, $4 Million
Reverie Language Technologies is one of the startups that has recently been on the receiving end of funding to help bridge the digital gap in terms of translated online content. Reverie's product helps Indian internet users to understand and use internet services and sites despite these (for the most part) not being in their home language.
9. Indus OS (Acquired by PhonePe)
Location: Andheri, India
Funding: Secondary Market
Indus OS is an Indian startup that aims to nudge India into the digital age by bringing down the barriers that exist between smartphone users and app developers and providing a personalized mobile experience for Indian smartphone users. The company is not just aiming for the Indian market, though. Rather, they believe that the Indus OS platform will be useful in any predominantly non-English speaking country to serve the diverse lingual preferences and unique needs of smartphone users in various emerging markets.
10. Learning Equality
Location: La Jolla, California
Learning Equality is a startup seeking to bridge the digital divide between children with access to online learning services and those that currently do not. The Learning Equality platform allows learners to take back their right to quality education by ensuring that anyone, whether online or offline, can access their platform anywhere.
Recommended: Check out our full list of the top startups to watch!