Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Challenges of using #Skype in #Malawi for #Entrepreneur training

Skype has been critical to our volunteer consultancy training across Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. It enables us to reach a wider audience as it is a free service. In Rwanda and Uganda approximately 50% of our entrepreneurs conduct their calls over Skype.

In Malawi only 10% of our clients are having consultancy via Skype. This unfortunately  has a knock on effect to the number of volunteers we have willing to work with our Malawian clients.  After interviewing with our team many volunteers ask for a client who uses Skype. This means we have a back log of entrepreneurs needing assistance. .

So why would we have such a variance across our three countries? Skype is still a relatively new technology for many of our entrepreneurs; however this is still not the major problem. Many of our clients do not have their own lap tops so head to internet cafes. With long queues, expensive transport to get there and the cost of using these facilities mean that it is very difficult to increase the usage of Skype. Clients are invited to our office to use the spare equipment  however we are often closed in the evenings and the weekends.

So what are our solutions? Skype is offering a great opportunity for our clients yet we are not able to maximise on this. Firstly our Malawi team headed by Sophie Kumwanje will start to open accounts with our clients during the interview process and demonstrate how to use it. They will then discuss options such as friends and family who may have lap top access locally.

The bigger challenge comes with asking for additional investment from volunteers. Committing 36 hours across 6 months is significant, to then ask our volunteers to pay for the cost of calls (the cost of calling for an hour call can vary from £5 to £10) can at times feel we are asking too much. Nonetheless we are passionate about what we do. On average we create 3 jobs for each project we work on. That is 3 people with a new future able to provide for their network in an empowered way. Is that a worth while investment of what is a bottle of wine per week for 12 weeks? We think so!

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