$50 M Digital Partners Fund To Focus On Social Entrepreneurs In India

Mumbai: | Updated: Jun 5 2003, 05:30am hrs
Seattle-based Digital Partners, which has chapters in the US and India, is planning to raise $50 million to fund social entrepreneurs involved in information and communication technology (ICT) projects. Although the fund will support projects across the world, the main focus will be India. We are in the process of raising $50 million over the next three years. It will be a global fund to support projects worldwide but India will catch our main attention, said Digital Partners president Satish Jha.

In 2002, Digital Partners raised $1.06 million while for 2001 it was over $840,000. Digital Partners received a $300,000 funding from the WK Kellogg Foundation in 2000 to develop an organisation designed to serve the poor in the digital age. This initial funding has been leveraged through additional co-financing from donors, foundations, development agencies and the private sector.

The company, Mr Jha said, has funded $200,000 to Drishtee which delivers government service to rural villages through franchised ICT kiosks. It will be utilised for the expansion of services through Drishtees locations across several states. Under the tiered franchise licence fee model, Drishtee holds 20 per cent stake and the kiosk owner 80 per cent. The services provided are e-mail, government processes and education.

Computer on Wheels was awarded seed funding of $20,000 to pilot a mobile ISP service based on computer-equipped motorcycle providing fee-based computer and Internet services to rural villages off the grid.

The Swayam Krishi Sangam Foundation micro-credit organisation is using a loan of $25,000 to develop smart-card applications.

Digital Partners funds entrepreneurs who themselves contribute 50 per cent of the total project cost, Mr Jha said. Financial support is extended to entrepreneurs who develop and utilise innovative ICT-enhanced, self-sustaining solutions. We look at viable, market-based and readily scalable models. We are involved in mentoring, financing and arranging funds for ICT-centric programmes, he added.