Last year, the U.N. reported the striking statistic that more people around the globe have access to cell phones than toilets. Six billion of the world’s estimated 7 billion people have access to mobile phones, but only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets—and 2.5 billion of those don’t have proper sanitation.
The need for greater global access to essential products—goods that help alleviate poverty and disease—is one highlighted by Chuck Slaughter, CEO and Founder of Living Goods, in a recent piece for The Guardian. Amid technological leaps forward, like that which saw much of the developing world bypass a landline telephone infrastructure with the adaption of mobile technology, Slaughter identifies four forces that could facilitate a better way of life for those who need it most.
Those forces are microfinance, direct selling, social media and mobile technology. Microfinancing has already benefitted more than 500 million individuals around the world. Direct selling’s rapidly growing business model exploits what Slaughter calls “one the most powerful forces in markets and societies—the power of human networks.” Social media multiplies exponentially the potential of human networks and with it the individual’s ability to market and provide customer service. Mobile technology instantaneously connects entrepreneurs to their customers, transforming all aspects of business.
Living Goods is harnessing these forces in the developing world to provide essential products like anti-malaria treatments, clean-burning cookstoves, fortified foods and solar lamps. By distributing its goods directly through franchisees, the company also creates a livelihood for some of the world’s underemployed, who represent a third of the global population.