Intel's World Ahead Program is an ambitious billion-dollar venture, but other tech and telecom companies are also building relationships in developing countries that promise to become the most massive of mass markets. Among them:
Working with the United Nations and other organizations in 53 developing countries, Cisco's Networking Academy has trained more than 50,000 students on the essentials of information technology, network operating systems, and networking infrastructure since 2000. Its foundation invests in microfinance institutions operating in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
The Unlimited Potential program has provided educational tools, training, and low-cost software for 3.4 million teachers and more than 71 million students in 101 countries. The company offers a package of Windows, Office, and other software for $3 to governments that buy PCs for students. It also helps rural villages build shared-computer kiosks and is testing rent-to-own plans for low-income customers.
In Kenya, where bank accounts are uncommon and many people are supported by remittances from abroad, Vodafone's wireless affiliate, Safaricom, offers a money-transfer service, M-Pesa. Vodafone works with manufacturers to design cellular handsets that sell for as little as $20 in developing markets, and used its purchasing power to help two Chinese companies begin making low-cost phones.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.