GovStart: Trailblazing the European GovTech ecosystem
PUBLIC’s founders Daniel Korski and Alexander de Carvalho on launching the GovStart 2019 cohort across the UK, France, and Germany.
Today PUBLIC launches the third round of GovStart – our trailblazing accelerator focused on startups that want to transform public services. And this year we are excited to kick-off GovStart not only in London but in Berlin and Paris too, helping great GovTech startups in Germany and France scale and transform public services.
Our new European programmes mark an important moment for PUBLIC. We have always seen PUBLIC as a European – indeed global – business. Regardless of whether – and how – Britain leaves the European Union, we think that, innovators across the continent can benefit from working together and seizing opportunities in different European markets.
With the GovStart accelerator programme now operating in the three largest European markets we aim to help British companies scale into Germany, German companies succeed in France and French companies grow in the UK.
We want great GovTech startups in the UK to see France or Germany as an important second market; and we want public servants in the UK to be able to see what the brightest innovators from across the European continent are building to transform public services for the better.
In short, we aim to create a European GovTech ecosystem. We saw the desire for such a continent-wide ecosystem with the GovTech Summit last year – which attracted more than 3000 innovators, investors, politicians and officials to Paris – and we look forward to gathering everyone once again for the GovTechSummit 2019 in Paris this November.
Over the course of the six month GovStart programme. PUBLIC will support companies with a variety of challenges, from understanding and navigating public institutions to raising investment; from scaling across verticals to engaging in large procurements. Every company that joins GovStart receives a tailored programme helping them reach the goals that are needed for the next step of their business.
This next cohort of GovStart companies are the trailblazers of the European GovTech community, and we look forward to supporting them to improve public services – for everyone’s benefit.
Mira Cole-Wijaya looks into the technology transforming development, from financial inclusion to education to connectivity.
Technology has radically transformed people’s lives and livelihoods across the globe. Within humanitarian and international development contexts, technology has the potential to massively change the way aid is delivered, to find solutions to development bottlenecks, and to provide alternative ways to spur economic growth. The UN sees technology as one of the key pillars crucial in helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, while DiFD’s digital development strategy believes “digital technologies have the potential to revolutionise the lives of the poor, unlock development and prosperity, and accelerate progress towards the Global Goals”. Though we must not be over zealous in seeing technology as the “silver bullet” set to disentangle all international development challenges, in many cases technology does have the unique ability to help countries leapfrog certain stages in traditional development trajectories or provide innovative solutions to distinctive regional obstacles.
So what types of technologies are really making a difference?
International development is a vast and all encompassing concept, touching on all facets of society within developing countries, from service delivery to humanitarian responses to economic growth. Furthermore, the impact of these many of these technologies are expansive and crosscutting with technology working at the intersection of multiple sectors. This makes it very difficult to define exactly what we would consider an international development technology. Roughly, however, we can set out 8 categories where technology is increasingly disrupting the developmental ecosystem.
Financial inclusion: Technology plays an important role in propelling inclusive growth. M-Pesa is perhaps the most talked about and successful example of technology being used as a tool for financial inclusion by allowing mobile phone owners to securely and quickly transfer money via their phones. This has provided a banking system for the previously unbanked and lifted 2% of Kenyan households out of extreme poverty. Similarly Tala has provided credit to the informal sector empowering a new generation of business owners. Technology has the power to revolutionise the financial system for those who would traditionally be marginalised and in the process lift many vulnerable populations out of poverty.
The Collaborative Economy: Collaborative economy tools are changing the way citizens access assets and services they previously could not afford. Hello Tractor is an ‘uber style’ service that allows African farmers to access low cost tractors, while WeFarm is a farmer to farmer knowledge sharing platform that allows farmers to ask questions or share tips via SMS (for those without internet access) or online. Both technologies have led to an increase in farmers yield and efficiency. Meanwhile, GO-JEK in Indonesia has spun out from a platform connecting low-end taxi and motorbike taxis to include at home delivery of services, such as spa treatments, as well as food delivery. What is especially interesting about Go-Jek has been its role in stimulating growth and inclusion in Indonesia, providing a slothe of new job opportunities, connecting low-productive sectors of the economy, while moving jobs previously part of the informal economy into the formal economy and thereby increasing the potential tax base.
Utilities: With 780 million people worldwide lacking access to clean water and just under one billion people without access to electricity, the UN’s millennium development goals have a strong focus on providing access to these vital utilities. There are a myriad of technologies working to tackle the challenges of clean water scarcity such as Zero Mass Water, which uses solar panels to pull drinking water out of the air, and LifeStraw, who create portable filtered straws which has given millions of people access to clean water. Lack of infrastructure, hostile terrain and remoteness of many regions in developing countries also make providing electricity off the grid essential. Companies like as BuffaloGrid and Standard Microgrid are finding innovative ways, using renewable energy to provide power to those who are often marginalised by lack of traditional infrastructure while using the resources they have copious amounts of – sunlight.
Transportation and logistics: The geography and lack of formal infrastructure is one of the greatest challenges for developing countries. With the emergence of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), however, remote areas previously inaccessible using conventional transport are becoming reachable. Windhorse Aerospace uses UAVs to deliver aid to communities in restricted locations, while Altigator uses multi-sensory drones for search and rescue after natural disasters and for digitally mapping remote regions. New ways of providing addresses and locations to regions which lack formal street addresses are also appearing, including What3Words – which encodes geographical coordinates into three words – and OkHi, which provides locations with an “OkHi address” comprising of a web link that points to a GPS tag and photo of the house’s gate. While Where Is My Transport is making public transport in emerging cities easier to use by collating data on both formal and informal modes of transport to provide a journey planning platform.
Education: Globally there has been a rise in literacy rates and numbers of children attending both primary and secondary school, however there are still many countries who are lagging behind. New types of technology are entering the market in attempts to find novel ways to provide better educational outputs in a sustainable format. From durable and cost-effective tablets for primary schools in Africa, to educational platforms that use gamification and ai technology to make learning fun and easily to access across South-East Asia (Solve Education) the educational sector in developing countries are becoming more tech savvy. Platforms like Funzi are also working with development organisations and the UN to develop bespoke mobile learning services that easily and effectively target specific groups.
Health: There are numerous new technologies out there finding pioneering ways to provide healthcare in challenging environments. Simprints are using biometric fingerprint scanners to overcome identification bottlenecks and build medical records for pregnant women in Bangladesh as well as improving vaccination coverage in other countries. Flare is changing Nairobi’s emergency service landscape by creating an ‘uber-style’ consumer facing app which allows patients or hospitals see available ambulance options to request help as quickly as possible. While Zipline is using drones in Tanzania and Rwanda to parachute deliver important medical supplies to remote regions.
Governance and accountability: Developing countries governments are often critiqued for their lack of transparency, especially when it comes to the expenditure of aid. Aid.Tech is set to revolutionise this process by using blockchain technology to instantly send money around the world with complete traceability, reducing the amount of money that is lost through corruption or fraud. Beneficiaries are provided with a digital identity, that cannot be replicated, through which they can receive entitlements via digital vouchers. Further systems of digital identification are also be rolled out across many countries, including India’s use of Aadhaar biometric digital identification for public service provision and Nigeria’s E-ID system.
Connectivity: With many of these pioneering technologies, what sits behind them is the massive increase in mobile phone use and access to the internet. While internet access is burgeoning in many urban areas, the price is less affordable than in developed countries, furthermore there are huge obstacles in expanding affordable internet access to remote areas due to the need for new or upgraded infrastructure. This has lead to large corporations such as Google, SpaceX, Facebook and Oneweb investing in the development or aerial infrastructure innovations in efforts to overcome these challenges. Examples include Google’s Project Loon which is a network of stratospheric balloons providing internet to remote locations.
Yet whilst education and its future is a much discussed topic, the role technology can play in enhancing learning still feels open to be defined. As education budgets across Europe become more and more stretched and students’ expectations of teaching resources rise, new technology can provide a welcome bridge for these ever-growing gaps.
The EdTech Market
Europe is already producing many of the world’s leading EdTech startups and is well-positioned to become world leader in the sector. The UK currently ranks top for edtech venture capital funding in Europe and also hosts London EdTech Week each year in June – one of the continent’s leading EdTech events.
The EdTech market is broad and encompasses all technologies that seek to improve education. This can be split into a few key areas: learning/educational platforms, school administration, learning management systems, communication platforms, study tools and learning analytics.
Even this segmentation, however, does little to indicate the full breadth and volume of offerings available. Intersections with other technology sectors, such as HealthTech and FinTech, are beginning to produce some of the most vibrant EdTech hybrids – such as BlackBullion, an app trying to create a financially literate generation of students by providing financial education to university-level students; and Lexplore, which helps determine reading attainment of children and highlight specific reading difficulties, such as dyslexia.
Within learning platforms, the market ranges from the language learning apps like Duolingo and Lingumi, to platforms like MATH42 and Code Kingdoms which teach children maths and coding skills respectively. Startups like Airsupply are changing how schools find teachers, by matching teachers and teaching assistants to vacant positions. Academic assessment processes are also in a period of transformation, whether that’s through DigiExam changing how students take their exams and how teachers write their questions, or through Peergrade allowing students to learn through assessing their peers’ works.
Where are the opportunities for EdTech within the public sector?
Last year, the Department for Education published its aims to increase the use of new technology – to lead a classroom revolution. There is a huge amount of new technology available in this area, but as of yet, few have been adopted by schools in a widespread way – an opportunity for startups, but only those who are able to scale quickly across a very fragmented market.
Adjacent to in-classroom tech is efficiency and cost-saving technology for schools – automation of back office processes such as assessment and HR, and workforce management and improvement, such as recruitment and training. Startups such as Arbor are blazing ahead in this arena, but automation in education systems still leaves much to be desired.
Outside of schools, inclusive access to education and lifelong learning remain key agendas – and large markets. High quality online resources which are readily available for students are increasingly used and remain attractive to governments as a means to help break down barriers of class or regional inequality. Schools themselves may even start looking to online platforms to provide resources to students. With parents now being asked to buy textbooks for their children, startups like Perlego and Bibliotech may provide a tech solution to an increasing educational challenge.
Language learning is one of the most developed areas of EdTech – apps like Duolingo and busuu are already household names. However, even within this field new companies are emerging, such as Lingumi, supporting children aged 2-6 to learn English; Little Bridge, providing a global online platform for children to interact and learn English, and Tandem, linking up native language speakers to language students. Platforms teaching coding and STEM subjects are following a similar trajectory.
As a general rule, the technology needed to improve the lives of teachers and students is already out there – whether it’s finding teaching tools to increase accessibility or making assessment and administrative processes more efficient, the EdTech market has a solution. Now is the time for schools to start adopting.
Applications for our GovTech accelerator programme GovStartare now open – want to find out more? Get in touch.
Mark Lazar looks back on the GovTech market and how things have changed since we started GovStart One in 2017.
Two years ago, we launched PUBLIC and the GovStart accelerator programme.
At that time, we had to convince a lot of people of the merits of GovTech – convince public officials about the potential of new technologies, convince startups that government is a viable market with real commercial opportunities, and convince investors that startups wouldn’t die in the government sales cycle.
Two years on, the atmosphere has definitely changed. In November, we hosted the first ever GovTech Summit in Paris, bringing together 3000 people to have a conversation about how new technologies can transform the public sector. One attendee commented that “no one is having the debate about whether GovTech should be a thing – everyone is debating the best way to make the most out of the opportunity.”
There are many that are still unconvinced, and we will continue to make the case for GovTech, but it’s safe to say that more & more people are paying attention – and GovTech has gotten bigger.
This year, GovStart is also getting bigger. Building off the back of our success in the UK, and the GovTech Summit, we are launching GovStart France, with two more locations getting announced in next few weeks. Stay tuned.
In the last two years, we have worked with companies with one person, companies with fifty people and everything in between. We have also worked with companies engaging across the public sector: from central government, to local authorities, to the health services.
Every company that joins GovStart needs different things. We work by setting core goals with every founding team about what we want to achieve, and building a programme of support around each of these goals. Therefore – although we operate in a cohort – each company engages with GovStart in different ways, whether it be building networks with key decision makers in the public sector, bidding for tenders, developing products to a government level spec, fundraising, or all of the above and more.
Whether you are a new entrepreneur with an idea and a big public vision, or a startup with private sector traction exploring a new market, or an established company looking to harness PUBLIC’s new European offices for international scale – we want to talk to you. Sign up herefor a short call with our team to discuss whether GovStart could be for you.
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