Equality Is Free

“In the United States it’s practically free for you to get on Google and Facebook, as Wi-Fi is (free) almost everywhere or cheap relative to income. Here, it’s a different relationship to the Internet when you only get it on your phone.”  [Erik Hersman, founder of iHub, a tech startup incubator in Nairobi, Kenya]

Kenyan entreprenuers
Young Kenyan entrepreneurs at iHub in Nairobi are tackling the problem of inequality and look towards America

Sometimes a foreign stranger can understand us better than we understand ourselves. The Amazon-ing of  tablets means everyone can surf the Internet now. You can sit at Starbucks or McDonalds all day and surf for free on a cheap tablet. Video-chat with anyone in North America or make new friends all over the planet. In America internet access is becoming freely-available—and that drives equal access.

Free is the oldest startup model and no one understands the power of free and equal access better than today’s young entrepreneurs—especially in Kenya. Today people everywhere can raise free startup capital on Kickstarter. Free startup capital led to soccer balls that double as reading lights for villages without electricity. Free Wifi generates sales of Big Macs (and fries!). And grande non-fat lattes. But it leads to many other transactions as well. And with equal access comes inequality as everyone works to satisfy differing wants. Inequality happens when people have equal access.

Technology—how to do it, how to deliver it is one of the central problems of improving life on Earth. The way we do it matters. Conventional wisdom informs us that inequality is “the problem.” Experience shows free-and-equal is the cause.

It makes you wonder…might free-and-equal actually be the solution…inequality the inescapable result…and are young Kenyans teaching us…?


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