Making an Impact

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Alex Sudheim

14 Feb 2023 Clock 4 min

It is a truism that a business is in business to do business. However, Voys is also in business to make a positive impact upon society. Voys is a leading telecom company in the Netherlands; provides South African businesses with the most sophisticated VoIP platform on the market and is about to make a great leap forward on the international front. Watch this space!

An Equal Voice for All

For Voys, success in the corporate realm, whilst of critical importance to the company, is a means to an end and not only an end in itself. The end goal in question is the fundamental purpose which drives the company: giving people an equal voice. Not just in business via its peerless products and services, but in the wider world where connecting to the internet is often a scarce luxury.

It is for this reason that Voys charges itself a 1% “connectivity tax” which goes toward funding the global projects of its in-house NGO, When the organisation was founded four years ago, 48% of the world’s population had no internet access, a grossly imbalanced state of affairs which the 48percent foundation is dedicated to addressing via its goal to provide equitable access to connectivity. partnered with Nepalese NGO BlinkNow to provide Wi-Fi for their Kopila Valley School’s New Green School Campus

Connecting the Unconnected

In 2003, when in his early twenties, Voys founder Mark Vletter spent six months doing volunteer work in Haiti. During his time in Latin America’s poorest country, he experienced for himself how the absence of the means and mechanisms of communication can fundamentally compromise the potential of a country and its people. This inspired in Vletter an enduring vision to enhance access to unrestricted communication. This first came to fruition in 2006 with the establishment of Voys, whose seminal products and services pioneered telephony in the cloud.

The next step toward making the vision a reality took place in 2019, when 48percent was founded as an NGO funded 100% by Voys. In the relatively short time since its inception, the organisation has disbursed over Є300 000 (around R6 million) to over 20 partners running 34 projects in 20 different countries around the world. As Voys continues to grow, so too will the ability of to make an increasingly significant impact. 

48percent partnered with The Internet Society (ISOC) in designing and deploying computer networks in rural Kenya

Unity is Strength

Of course 48 percent isn’t the only organisation dedicated to bridging the digital divides that persist across the planet. This is the principal reason why the foundation’s strategy is centred around the concept of collaboration. 48percent identifies NGOs around the world whose initiatives can be supported and amplified by providing financial, technical and human resources to projects that align with the organisation’s three programme lines: Facilitating physical access to affordable connectivity; facilitating digital literacy, and facilitating privacy awareness and safe internet usage.

By co-operating with like-minded organisations and foundations in many different countries, 48percent helps to make a palpable impact in innovative grassroots initiatives from Argentina to India to right here in South Africa where it has partnered with the exciting Project Isizwe, whose inspired “Africa Uncapped” project strives to equitably connect 50 million African citizens to uncapped internet. 

Whether it’s joining forces with Sawa World in Uganda to teach coffee farmers valuable skills via the use of learn kernels; collaborating with Rhizomatica to build connectivity through high frequency radio systems in remote villages in the Ecuadorian Amazon or working with Project Isizwe to create residential WiFi hotspots that strengthen the Mpophomeni community network in KwaZulu-Natal, 48percent is always on a quest to partner with projects that build bridges across the digital divides that hamper social, economic, educational and vocational growth. 

48percent collaborates with South Africa’s Project Isizwe to create residential WiFi hotspots that strengthen the Mpophomeni community network in KwaZulu-Natal

Closing the Digital Divide

By becoming ever more deeply integrated into the global ecosystem of organisations committed to the cause of equitable access to connectivity, 48percent is increasingly enhancing its capacity to make a discernible difference in this critical yet often-overlooked realm. Backed by Voys, 48percent is a seamless expression of the company’s goal to empower as many people on the planet as possible to communicate more productively, efficiently and cost-effectively.  

At this point in time, an estimated 31% of the world’s population (approximately 2.9 billion people) have still never used the internet. Given that this number is 17% lower than when 48percent was founded four years ago, there are certainly grounds for optimism with regards to the progress being made in this arena. 

But the battle is far from over and much work is yet required to, in that classic South African phrase, make the circle bigger and ensure those marginalised by a lack of access to connectivity are fast-tracked into meaningful membership of the digital global village. 

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