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Introducing the New Silk Road……

For the past three years Sedona Cyber Link has been developing the initiative ‘The New Silk Road.’ This is a program vehicle for providing technology and educational resources for communities in the developing world.  The growth of demand for LOHAS[i] products by buyers in the Western world and the growth of demand for products by bottom of the pyramid (BOP)[ii] buyers in Asia is an important phenomenon of the modern global economy.

The NewSilkRoadSHOP.com web portal will satisfy these two demand categories through the development of two lines of products.  The business model is built on the principles of social business[iii] and targets Western LOHAS consumers of fairly traded products, on the one hand, and Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American  BOP consumers of content-rich audio/video media for computer and mobile phone display, on the other hand.

The program it built on three principles:

  • Market Access
  • Technology Transfer
  • Communications Enhancements

Market Access

By providing market access to geographically distinct groups of BOP artisans in select countries around the world we hope to build sustainable economies and provide pockets of hope that can serve as incubators for other similar communities.  Here, the market access tool is a web portal that uses Web 2.0 technologies for search engine optimization (SEO), ‘trust’ network access, and social media tools for marketing. In addition, the site uses secure socket layer (SSL) encryption for secure online transactions, and drop/ship product delivery to reduce transportation costs to the customers.

We are a member of the Green America Fair Trade Alliance.  As such, we have access to eBay’s WorldOfGood portal for trust partners.

So, through the NewSilkRoadSHOP web portal, our store front through WorldOfGood, and the logistics framework we establish -communities of weavers and other artisans are able to gain access to broader markets for their handicrafts and artisan products. The net result is a source of income for the BOP workers that improves the quality of life of their family members and gives them the resources they need to educate their children.

Technology Transfer

Another part of this business model is the development and production of short language-localized training videos streamed to web and cellular devices on business and technical subjects. These videos will be targeting the BOP entrepreneur in the initial launch countries.

Infrastructure for a multi-generational shift in telecom applications is being put into place in many places around the world. If we take just the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region we see that mobile subscriptions will more than double in the MENA region to 350 million by 2014 compared with 144 million in 2009.[iv] And there will be a significant upgrade in the services offered and their market penetration. Informa predicts that by 2014, more than half of subscribers will have access to 3.5G+ (41%) and 3G (18%), while the remainder will be served by 2.5G (9%) and 2G (more than 30%).  At the other end of the silk road, data-enabled cellular penetration of the Asian market is estimated by the Mobile Marketing Association[v] to be approximately 102 million consumers.

With this kind of market penetration cellular companies will be seeking content that can satisfy the growing demand for services and quality content.  Content that is language-localized that provides user-friendly information on simple business management concerns will be in high demand. Examples of the videos we will produce include:

  1. short videos on how to work water filtration systems;
  2. short videos on installations of solar arrays for generating electricity;
  3. short videos on soil erosion control techniques for farmers;
  4. animated introductions to waste stream management for specific industries (e.g., textiles);
  5. videos providing simple accounting training programs for retail shop managers.

We envision a pay-on-demand channel dedicated to these short streamed videos built on the model of the highly successful Lynda.com online training program for Adobe products. Our IT partner, Fortify Infrastructure Services, based in Santa Clara, California and Pune, India, has been supplying important technical services to many of the cellular providers in our target countries.[vi]

Communications Enhancements

The combination of market access for product sales and targeted tools for business management will provide several communications enhancements for these BOP workers and consumers. Workers will be able to more effectively and efficiently access sources of supply and raw materials and will be able to coordinate on the shipment of their goods. With access to cellular telephones they will be in a position to take more control of their lives and the health and well-being of their families. This benefit is one of the key objectives of the social enterprise aspect of the New Silk Road initiative.

Implementation Progress

Sedona Cyber Link began developing the New Silk Road initiative in 2007.  It has been self funded through profits from training and education consulting by its principle, Jane Ginn.  A critical implementation step was the development of key strategic alliances with fair trade organizations and suppliers in the target countries.  To date, the target countries are India, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos in Asia; and Jordan in the Middle East. Pending elections in Myanmar, this country may also be added to the list of Asian partners.  The fair trade certified organizations we will be working with are as follows:

India

  • Baladarshan & SPEED Trust
  • International Federation for Fair Trade and Development

Laos

  • Ock Pop Tok

Thailand

  • Thai Tribal Craft
  • Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment (WEAVE)
  • Thai Craft

In Cambodia we will need to build a fair trade infrastructure.  In Jordan we will be working with our partner Virgin Mary Mosaics to implement fair trade practices.

Currently, the NewSilkRoadSHOP website is under construction.  It is being built on the eCommerce engine of GoDaddy, a Phoenix, Arizona-based company.  It is fully integrated with both the UPS and FederalExpress shipping and tracking systems.  It also has merchant card services linkages using SSL with MasterCard and Visa.  PayPal payments will be available through our WorldOfGood store front.

We are using two product lines as prototypes for working through the functionality of database connectivity: 1) mosaics developed by a Jordanian entrepreneur and graduate of the Thunderbird SEEDS program; and 2) organic silk scarves woven by BOP workers on the island of Khong Koh on the Mekong river in Cambodia.

Sedona Cyber Link has established a YouTube Channel where prototypes of short videos are being published. Brand name recognition is being established through a NewsBlog at http://SedonaCyberLink.com, Twitter and other high traffic social media sites.  The New Silk Road initiative is being co-branded as a project of Sedona Cyber Link.

The social enterprise mission of SedonaCyberLink as presented through the New Silk Road initiative can complement the business model of telecommunication companies that are seeking market penetration in remote areas around the world.  As providers of quality content we will be able to reach out to underserved communities while at the same time giving them access to global markets for their products.  It is this combination of products for  developed world LOHAS consumers and products and services for developing world BOP producers that makes SedonaCyberLink a valuable partner to both non-profit organizations and for-profit organizations in our target emerging market economies.

 


[i] LOHAS is the acronym for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.”

 

[ii] BOP is the acronym for “Bottom of the Pyramid” consumer as defined by C.K.  Prahalad in his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits.

[iii] As defined by Muhammad Yunas in his book Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism

[iv] According to telecom intelligence specialist Informa Telecoms & Media as reported by Susannah Tarbush on the GlobalArabNetwork.com media channel.

[v] http://mmaglobal.com/main

[vi] http://www.fortifyis.com/