Fostering Inclusion with Subsidized Internet
Sometimes, I really revel in the idea of life before the internet. Of course, forgetting about all the privilege that goes along with being able to casually carry around the world at my fingertips. Most of us in the West take our access for granted.
Serag Meneassy, Co-Founder of Wasla Browser, explained in a recent fireside chat with Zach Measures how their product is making the internet accessible to parts of the world where it is still considered a luxury, ultimately helping to reduce social and economic disparity in underserved areas.
Here are a few key takeaways pointing to the disparity faced by those in the MENA (Middle East / North Africa) region:
- The internet is expensive. To put it into perspective, the average cost of a gigabyte in Egypt costs about the same as what it costs in France or Spain. However, the average income level is nowhere near the same. In fact, Serag says this means it’s about 18 times more expensive for an Egyptian.
- Browsers are underutilized. The average Egyptian doesn’t know what a browser is, and instead flocks toward platforms like Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram when given the opportunity to go online.
- Massive ‘“unbanked” population. More than half of all Egyptians don’t have bank accounts. This makes paying for things online quite difficult, and in many cases, impossible.
And here is what Wasla Browser is doing about it:
Want free internet? When internet is so expensive that having it would mean sacrificing necessities for your family, the offer has resonance. Following the example of some of the world’s biggest tech giants, the team at Wasla Browser posted up at Cairo University (the largest higher education institute in Egypt) offering free t-shirts promoting this deal to students. Within hours they had thousands of downloads and they never looked back.
- Gamified browsing: Users can collect points by simply doing what they do online, whether that’s watching videos or checking out articles, and use those points toward airtime or data bundles. Since Wasla integrates directly with major carriers, users are able to collect about 70% of the advertising revenue they are predicted to generate and apply it to their telecom bill.
- Rallying for mom & pop shops: In the MENA region, the product catalog for giant retailers like Amazon is not nearly as well established as it is for most tier one regions, so there are significant opportunities for smaller merchants to scale meaningfully.
- Localizing payments: Wasla is building a native payment method within the browser so users can eventually pay for their purchases, taking away the necessity for merchants to facilitate their own payment integrations. Being able to provide these shops with the tools they need to facilitate transactions with price-sensitive customers is a game changer.
- Bring on the influencers: Tools like those included in the Everflow platform offer an incredible upgrade from what influencers in the MENA region are typically offered, from the simple availability of a real-time dashboard to more advanced features that help combat fraud.
If you are a merchant serving the Middle East and/or North Africa, or an influencer able to reach these regions, please feel free to reach out to Serag directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.