EEM BusinessCase

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1     Business Case

Prosperity4All will create an infrastructure that will enable the ecosystem for inclusive services and products for obligated organizations (organizations obligated by law or policy to provide accessible products and/or services) and those who are under-served by current offerings; as well as a market for current and potential producers and suppliers that face barriers to employment and market entry.

This project will …

·         leverage emerging opportunities and unique knowledge assets to attract, grow, and retain new investment, economic growth and development, human capital, and business infrastructure.

·         diversify the economy by enabling the creation of a new variety of entrepreneurial endeavors, supporting cluster development and enhancement, and initiating a global supply chain.

·         expand existing industry and community partnerships to create economic resilience and sustainability for communities in distress, specifically underemployed youth and individuals with disabilities.

·         focus to leverage and strengthen existing assets, opportunities, and expertise but create a global opportunity.

·         generate sustainable impact.

1.1                What is the Business Opportunity?

Globally the incidence of disability is rising, in large part due to an aging population, but also due to better survival rates from manmade and natural disasters. At the same time many jurisdictions are enacting or strengthening legislation compelling public and private sector organizations to provide accessible services and products. However, currently most services and products are designed for the typical or average consumer. This leaves a large and growing global unmet demand for services and products. This growth in the unmet demand for accessible products and services is coincident with a general consumer demand for more personalized products and services bolstering the market for products and services that are designed for diversity.

1.2                Who are the Potential Producers and Suppliers?

A critical but dispersed community in distress is individuals experiencing barriers to employment due to disabilities. This includes invisible and episodic disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health challenges, autism and other challenges. Advances in network technologies, new forms of manufacturing and service delivery, and emerging practices in training and employment offer ways to design work so that it is designed for the diverse needs and constraints of potential employees and service entrepreneurs. This redesign of employment and work also benefits other employees who require non-traditional opportunities such as individuals with responsibilities to care for aging relatives or children and individuals who live far from large employers.  This match is achieved by transforming, augmenting and/or replacing default resources. Resources are sourced from federated digital repositories or through networked services that draw on trained suppliers and producers. The result is “what you need, when, where and how you need it” for consumers with unmet needs, and “work, where, when and how you can” for individuals seeking employment. This service can be applied to a large range of unmet needs including accessible Web, mobile and computer interfaces, document formats, media resources, wayfinding, assistance on demand, and manufactured products (using 3D printing).

 

The number of consumers with specialized requirements not addressed by mass markets (e.g. those who are aging, have disabilities, or are cultural and linguistic minorities) is growing. These consumers collectively represent billions in spending power.  Unfortunately, specialized products and services are usually more costly as they cannot benefit from economies of scale, thereby compromising the already stretched spending power of this growing consumer group. At the same time, many potential producers and suppliers face insurmountable barriers to market entry or succumb to fragmented demand and aggressive competitive marketing.

The values or principles and design criteria to be achieved include to:

·         protect consumer privacy; this includes all financial information and financial transactions which will use existing industry standards and processes for privacy and security

·         ensure that the services supplied are affordable

·         enable producers and suppliers to create viable businesses

·         encourage innovation

·         support diversification of both supply and demand and discourage a winnowing of demands and products, commensurate with the diversity of users

·         facilitate transparent feedback loops and reviews

·         support continuous renewal and organic growth of both the market and platform

Addressing the diverse demands of consumers at the margins and the organizations obligated to serve individuals with disabilities, aggregating these demands, providing tools and supports to meet the demands, training currently unemployed and underemployed individuals to serve these demands, and supporting the creation of enterprises that design for diversity will initiate a virtuous cycle of economic inclusion for individuals currently facing barriers to participation in our economy. The potential economic and social impact is boundless.

 

1.3                Platform Sustainability

The infrastructure is designed to enable an ecosystem that moves towards a self-sustaining model in which the multi-sided platform is maintained through revenues generated from platform participation. The model will be iteratively developed and refined throughout the project with the guidance of the advisory committee and input from all stakeholders. The design team will explore, develop and evaluate possible sustainability models. Some of the models to be considered include but are not limited to: transaction models, value-added service models, subscription models, advertising models, bartering models and pay-what-you-wish models.  It is anticipated that some form of a transaction fee model will form a significant component of the on-going financial support.  Obligated organizations will be able to obtain services via the platform at a lower cost than having to provision for those services independently.  By creating the market and enabling these savings, rent can be collected as a transaction fee.

1.4                Serving Obligated Organizations

Under accessibility legislation and standards in many countries around the world, organizations in both the private and public sector are obligated to provide an acceptable level of accessible service to their customers and clients.  Currently, most obligated organizations redundantly pay for customized development, special accessible technologies, and “one off” service solutions.  By inclusively aggregating both supply and demand and facilitating the matching of the two, the ecosystem will provide obligated organizations with both more inclusive offerings and cost savings.  Numerous partners in both the private and public sector have determined the potential value and savings that this opportunity could create for them.  These partners are interested at least as much from enlightened self-interest as a desire to show corporate social responsibility.  This represents one of those all too infrequent opportunities where doing the right thing also means doing well.  The platform pays for itself by meeting the needs of these obligated organizations, many of whom are desperate for inclusive solutions, while at the same time providing entrepreneurial opportunities for members communities in distress and providing higher levels of service to those facing particular challenges who have unmet accessibility needs.

2     Demand from All Sides

The Prosperity4All approach to solving digital exclusion has many benefits that will make it attractive to suppliers (those who provide accessible content and services) and consumers (those who require accessible content and services). This approach fosters success by providing a complete economic cycle:

·         It provides training for developers and connects them to a global demand for services,

·         it provides relief from costly accessible technologies by aggregating demand and brokering relationships between individual consumers and developers,

·         it supports employment success for the unemployed and underemployed by providing flexible training and flexible work opportunities

·         it supports organizations in meeting their obligations by meeting pent-up demand for accessibility services

·         it supports ongoing training and reskilling through incremental systems that can respond to changes in demand for skills

·         it supports quality of work through feedback and rating systems

·         it provides mechanisms for micropayments and microfunding

Participatory research and development practices, capitalizing on findings from global research networks and developing for a complete cycle of demand, skills development and supply of inclusive products and services in a ripe but underserved market enables success. Finally, inclusion is not a fad, there will always be a need for inclusively designed products and services and this need is quickly growing with the aging demographic across Europe and elsewhere globally.

2.1                Security and Risk Management

The Cloud4All and Preferences for Global Access projects currently include researchers at five universities from around the world who are specifically addressing issues of security and privacy with regard to individual’s information and preferences.  The current risk management strategy for the global project currently stands at over 150 pages.  This platform will include a variety of payment options, including the potential use of a “community currency” or other alternatives.  Although some alternative payment systems will be considered, standard financial payments processing with its requisite security and transaction requirements will also be used.  Alternate financial systems have built-in security derived from their uniqueness while standard financial transactions bring well-understood standards and robustness.  The use of standard, accepted payment systems will ensure security of payments and financial transactions.

3     Economic Impact and Results

The implementation of this platform will provide individuals with disabilities with increased access to the necessary technology accommodations to be able to use web-based and other digital resources.  As outlined in the report “Releasing Constraints” by the Martin Prosperity Institute, et al. providing increased accessibility to people with disabilities could significantly improve GDP and employment, much of which would be from increased access to employment and educational opportunities.  Implementing the necessary supportive infrastructure would allow individuals with disabilities to more fully participate in the economy which, in turn, generates significant economic impact. These results are echoed and presented from another perspective in the work of Rich Donovan and the Return on Disability initiative (http://returnondisability.com/for-companies/rod-rating-report/), as well as a Gartner report that claimed that the untapped revenue exceeded 8 trillion dollars globally (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2638315).

Recently completed analysis of the potential macroeconomic impact of increased inclusion for people with disabilities estimated for the entire EU and the individual member states is available at EEM Macro EU.

3.1                Growth Metrics

The jobs and companies created through this project will create economic diversity.  This includes diversity through growth in the digital industries cluster and growth and development of the inclusive design cluster.  The use of services and service components by obligated organizations not only helps them to meet their obligation but also allows them to provide newer and better versions of their services across the entire population.  The platform will also assist consumers to discover personalized services that meet their unique unmet needs. These processes will help to improve economic diversity.  As the growth and usage of the market will directly reflect strengthened businesses and clusters and improved economic diversification and sustainability, the following metrics will be most meaningful:

·         Total number of individuals (consumers) registered

·         Total number of customizations registered or changed

·         Total number of service providers (sellers) registered (existing SMEs)

·         Total number of service providers (sellers) registered (new SMEs)

·         Total number of obligated organizations (buyers) registered

·         Total number of service searches completed

·         Total number of transactions completed (and completed by type of transaction)

·         Total payments made for completed transactions (and by type of transaction)

·         Commission and fees received

 

The platform will ensure that there are ample opportunities for self-paced career and skill advancement and meaningful career/business paths, thereby avoiding the risk of “digital sweatshop” processes that create a form of disconnected repetitive piecework in the digital domain. Credentials to be earned will be varied and will be continuously renewed in response to evolving demand. Producers and suppliers of products and services will have the opportunity to accumulate a diversity of credentials leading to opportunities for service and other entrepreneurship with bespoke financing from project partners and elsewhere.

 

3.2                Indirect Impacts, Results and Benefits

3.2.1             The Inaccessibility of Accessible Products – Avoiding the Costs

People with disabilities face a number of deeply entrenched, complexly entangled economic challenges. Most individuals with disabilities live below or close to the poverty line. This poverty is reinforced by the nature of current mass markets. Specialized goods that cannot benefit from economies of scale are more expensive. Any hobbyist, foodie, extreme sport enthusiast, or wine connoisseur can attest to this. This is a tolerable state if what you wish to purchase is not an essential good, but becomes a major hardship if some or most of the things you need to purchase are specialized. Unfortunately, essential products and services that are mass-produced, such as housing, clothing, many household products, and tools essential to learning and working, are typically not accessible to many people with disabilities. This means that, as a person with a disability, products and services that meet your needs do not exist, they are sporadically available due to a very fragmented market, or you have to pay much more for these products and services. This in turn means that the spending power of individuals living with disabilities, the majority of whom already live below the poverty line, is further compromised.

Although the P4A infrastructure will enable a self-sustaining ecosystem, it is not in itself the commercialized product that can be expected from this effort. Instead, it will develop a system of service entrepreneurship. The products and services developed by platform participants will realize the commercial expectations of this project. As part of its capacity-building approach, the infrastructure must provide tools and building blocks for SMEs, Indie developers and emerging entrepreneurs to create inclusively designed products. By providing this capability many of the extra costs currently experienced by people with disabilities can be reduced.

3.2.2             The Curb-Cut Phenomenon – Creating Benefits for Others

In the accessibility field there is an uncannily recurring phenomenon referred to as the “curb-cut effect.” The term references the particular example of ramps cut in sidewalks, or “curb-cuts”, which were originally intended to provide access to people using wheelchairs but are used by anyone pushing baby carriages, shopping carts, wheeled luggage or other wheeled devices. The phenomenon holds that when we design to address challenges faced by people with disabilities, we benefit everyone. Who hasn’t used an automatic door opener when arms are full, or grabbed a railing to get out of a slippery bathtub? Many of the innovations we take for granted were motivated by an effort to solve a problem faced by people with disabilities. E-mail was originally designed to communicate with a relative who is deaf.  Designing to include people with disabilities has a tendency to spur innovation and cause disruptive leaps forward. 

3.2.3             Market Analysis

Products are typically mass-produced and then mass-marketed. For new entrepreneurs it is not sufficient to have a great new idea or the best product, to succeed in this market requires a well-developed commercialization business platform. Consequently many new promising entrepreneurs face insurmountable barriers to entry. Producers also vie for the largest customer base, causing a move away from product diversification and toward greater competition, leaving consumers at the margins with fewer choices.

The need to ensure that everyone is able to access and use ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) is occurring at the same time we are facing something of a perfect storm in accessibility; where a number of factors are all coming together at the same time to create a disastrous combination and widening technology gap.

  1. Fewer resources as budgets shrink
  2. The demand is disbursed over many small groups – but together they represent a large market
  3. We never were reaching a reasonable fraction of consumers with outlying access needs
  4. Focus on the “mainstream” disabilities is leaving the tails unaddressed
  5. Existing solutions focus on the biggest few platforms
  6. The advent of inexpensive mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows phone, etc.) has dropped the bottom out of the accessible technology pricing
  7. Not just devices are affected but also e-documents, media, and services
  8. The rapid proliferation of platforms, devices, and solutions is leaving those who must deliver accessibility (clinicians, educators, libraries, public access points, government funding agencies, etc.) confused, perpetually behind, and unable to track or understand what is available

3.2.4             Education and Training

Our current education systems were designed for and are best suited to the industrial age when what was needed was standardized learners to staff our factories and offices. The current knowledge economy requires a responsive variety of competencies. We need a much more flexible or agile education and training system that better supports the quickly evolving economy. Rather than fostering standardized graduates we need to foster a diversity of creative life-long learners which supports these diverse learning opportunities and one-size-fits-one learning resources and delivery.

3.2.5             Employment

Employment structures are not designed to support anyone who has episodes when work is temporarily impossible or more difficult. The accommodations made for employees with visible disabilities are infrequently extended to employees with invisible disabilities, who are mistakenly characterized as lazy and unmotivated. This and many other factors contribute to the distressing fact that the jobless rate for people with disabilities in most countries, who are willing and able to work, is more than seven times the average.  The constraints of current employment policies cause problems for many employees. They do not account for the demands of families, the changes in work patterns over a lifetime, the importance of work-life balance, or the variety of incentives and motivators that result in greater productivity.  Alternatives that address these many constraints must be included.

3.2.6             Financing

People with disabilities are often denied or excluded from financial instruments that could lead to greater financial security or financial independence. A disparity between the actual risk and the presumed risk that should apply to people with disabilities impacts availability and cost of insurance, loans and credit. Financial policies and practices do not always fully take advantage of the risk reduction inherent in diversification.  Consequently our financial institutions may be more vulnerable to crisis that affect the majority without the buffer of the diversity from potentially less affected collective minorities. It will be necessary to assist financial institutions in serving many people who are currently unnecessarily excluded from financial instruments and services.