Project Details

Young Asian women working on computers

Digital Divide Data

Outsources work from the developed world to young people in the developing world.

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @digdivdata

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Education
  • Data
  • Mobile
  • Social Software

When computer consultant Jeremy Hockenstein visited Cambodia in 2001 to see the Angkor Wat complex, he was struck by both the poverty and the potential of the people living nearby. The young people he met were ambitious and clever, adept at using computers and keen to learn. Internet cafés abounded and computer classes seemed plentiful. Yet there were few ways for young people to put their skills to use.

Inspired by the growth of “business process outsourcing” in India, Hockenstein, working with a small group of friends, decided to create a new model of social impact outsourcing, called Digital Divide Data (DDD). Starting in Cambodia and Laos, DDD has created a new model for large clients in the developed world to get computer-based work done by young, bright and able people in the developing world.

DDD funds students to go to university, and trains them in the skills needed to work for large corporate clients such as Siemens, Stanford University, Unicef and Benetech. The young people gain important skills and improve their incomes: their wages typically rise fourfold when they start working for DDD. Clients in the developed world can outsource work knowing that not only does it make commercial sense, but the “impact outsourcing” model means that they are creating lasting social value as well.

DDD employs about 1,000 people in Cambodia, Laos and Kenya. Many of them have moving stories to tell of how the organisation created opportunities for them to improve their standard of living. Metta Tuippawong is a prime example. Born in northern Laos, Metta contracted polio as a child and lost the use of her legs. The only place she could get treatment was Vientiane, the Laos capital. She says she thought she would always have to be dependent on her hard-pressed parents because she was not mobile enough to find work. But then she found DDD, which sent her to university and trained her to become a call centre operator. Five and a half years later, in 2013, she was a training and development coordinator in DDD’s Laos operations, managing a small team of people.

Image 'SE-Asia-Socent-11' courtesy of Jim Fruchterman

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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