Palestinian start up Souktel first found life as a platform that connects job seekers in poverty and conflict stricken areas with potential employers using mobile phones. Today, the company uses mobile tech in a number of key ways to promote development across the world.
Launched in 2006 and based in Ramallah, the service was built to open up new job-seeking opportunities for those in conflict zones and connect employers with talent in areas they might not have access to. The service functions via telecommunications. Job-seekers send a series of text messages about their skill set and location to set up a profile on the service which is then matched with relevant openings (Souktel charges a small fee per SMS). Employers – who are charged at a slightly higher rate than jobhunters for the service – also use SMS to post open positions and can get in contact with jobhunters (and vice versa) via SMS, touch-tone menus and voice messages.
The platform is structured around a principle of inclusivity with functions made especially for basic call-and-text mobile phones. This is key to penetrating the Middle East where broadband internet and smartphone use is very low and/or expensive. Speaking to Forbes in 2012, Saed Nashef, a founding general partner of Sadara, the main investor in Souktel, said “if you can deliver information using SMS than you are meeting a real need. Delivering services over dumb mobile [phones] to emerging markets is very important.” Souktel – Arabic for ‘market’ or ‘bazaar’ – also licenses its service out to telecommunications providers in other regions, such as North Africa and Latin America, allowing them to tailor the offering to their area, customs and language.
Humanitarianism and social impact lie at the core of the organisation and since launching in 2006, it has added a number of other services to its portfolio, putting its technology to use in areas such as polling and data collection and mobile banking. Souktel recently used mapping technology to assist the US state department in its fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa while another project, undertaken with UNESCO, saw them create an SMS alert system to warn families and students in Gaza about outbreaks of conflict near schools in the area. Head to their website for more information on what they do.