Friday, July 29, 2011

Daproim and Steve Muthee, its founder

As I noted in my first blog on my African trip, I was delighted with the entrepreneurial culture in Nairobi, Kenya. A social entrepreneur who very much exemplified this was Stephen Muthee, founder of Daproim, a data entry social enterprise based in Nairobi.
Steve MutheeWe were introduced to Steve and Daproim through the great offices of Leila Janah and Samasource, the "Give Work" people. Leila's dream has been to connect the people of East Africa with dignified digital work, and connecting Steve to our Bookshare team has been highly successful for Daproim, Samasource and Bookshare! It's part of what we call our social enterprise supply chain.
Jim Fruchterman shaking hand of data entry operator among banks of PC usersIt's so cool to come into an office in Nairobi's Central Business District and see a couple of dozen people working on transcribing textbooks for Bookshare's users with print disabilities. Steve wanted me to work my way around the office shaking everybody's hand! I was happy to thank everybody for their work on behalf of our Bookshare members, and letting them know how important that work is for giving our members an equal shot at education.

And, of course, that's just what Daproim is all about. It's a for-profit social enterprise, with a focus on employing disadvantaged people. Steve hires people from disadvantaged backgrounds, both from the poorer parts of Nairobi as well as university students with impoverished rural backgrounds and people with disabilities.

It was talking about the university students where Steve, a highly animated entrepreneur, gets even more enthusiastic. He wants to provide these students with a part-time job that provides for their school fees, the purchase of a PC and enough money to send some home. He notes that students with these backgrounds have already overcome great obstacles, and he sees that they have the skills and the motivation to do high quality data entry work. And, of course, it was that high quality work product that Samasource connected with us in the first place, and now has been sustained for several years.

Steve shared that the Bookshare contract really was the turning point for his business. Up until that point, Steve was doing the family and friends fund raising thing to keep his business afloat. Steve especially noted the support he received from his mother, a farmer in rural Kenya, for keeping Daproim going until the business took off. And, now he's expanded into other areas of the data entry business, which is now the majority of his business.
Jim demonstrating iPad applicationI wrapped up my visit by demonstrating our new Read2Go iPad application to Jackie, who Steve described as one of his hardest working data entry employees. Of course, I showed off a textbook!

I'm really glad that Samasource connected us with Steve and Daproim, and that the partnership is working so well. It so clearly shows the benefit of what the Rockefeller Foundation calls Impact Sourcing. We see it as having our limited money working twice as hard: once to get the service we need (textbooks transformed into high quality accessible form for people who have disabilities) as well as creating great digital jobs for people in disadvantaged communities!

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