The inclusive business model has become an ever evolving global movement that not only focuses on erasing the dreaded poverty line, but also shines the spotlight on an ability to create life-lines in the form of opportunities for low-income segments.

By Nkululeko Magadla, managing executive officer for Vodacom Business Large Enterprise

Through the adoption of this model, which includes the low-income segment in a company’s value chain on the demand side as clients and consumers, as well as the supply side as producers, entrepreneurs or employees, wealth can be generated for members of our community that  largely live from hand to mouth.

Now that inclusive business model, when coupled with information and communications technology (ICT), holds the key to further drive transformative change, even in developing and underdeveloped countries.

The global digital journey will require us (as in enterprises) to integrate inclusive business models into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we hold the power to do so, applying methods that will help build on and expand on the impact that digitisation has had on the rest of society.

In order to arrive at our digital future, we are required to take a revolutionary step, driven by digitisation’s disruptive and innovative technologies – such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The sad reality, is that people in many of our countries around the world, have not experienced a rise in income over the years for their labour. We’re essentially plagued by enormous gaps between rich and poor, a gap that continues to widen. There’s no denying the ever-growing need for solutions to these dire social-economic grievances.

In that same breath, no harm could come from actively reversing what many have so far perceived as the biggest cause of widening the walls of inequality in developing countries. Technological innovation has not won over many supporters in these parts and a result of an increasing threat of robotics dissolving any need for that human element in working environments.

In fact, technology can support the development and growth of underdeveloped countries. Kenya is a great example of a country that has reaping the rewards of an inclusive business model that incorporates digital innovation. The African country has adopted a mobile money platform, known as M-Pesa. This platform has succeeded in uplifting two percent of Kenyan households out of poverty, more so households headed by woman.

Another primary example of a transformation technology is Connected Farmer; the result of an estimated combined investment of R21-million over three years. The cloud-based web and mobile software solution, which was launched by Vodacom, has connected thousands of smallholder farmers to the agriculture value chain.

This small business model has achieved its purpose of turning smallholder farmers into a sustainable food manufacturers and retail business, increasing the number of smallholder subsistence farmers in commercial agriculture value chains within South Africa.

Inclusive business models that are focused on investing in education and improving mobility and connectivity play a key role in fast-tracking the developing world into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We do, however, still have to overcome the long-standing challenge that lies in the form of inadequate infrastructure, education and training.

The journey into the Fourth Industrial Evolution, therefore, begins with investment. It’s a necessary step that will ensure that these shortcomings are transformed into opportunities for growth, our end-goal being to connect the unconnected. In doing so, we can broaden the reach of the benefits of technology-driven solutions and even go on to create new opportunities that will ultimately increase the number of jobs.

Truly speaking, technology brings with it beneficial development for countries that fall within this region. And this, coupled with sustainable inclusive business models will empower social and economic, digital transformation.

We have the ability to overcome this challenge and accelerate our journey into an exciting and connected future.