On 19 February 2013 I had the privilege of attending the CMDS workshop “Building funds for financial sustainability”. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and found it to be great value for money. I was blessed to meet some truly interesting people and equally inspirational causes. Read the full blog post here.
The Indigo Trust focuses on funding technology-driven projects to bring about social change, especially in African countries. We thought that it would be a good idea to send them a concept note for web-based software that we wanted to develop. This software would replace postage in distance education, bringing textbooks within easy and affordable reach of students countrywide.
The idea behind the application
Higher education in South Africa is heavily dependent on distance education. South Africa’s biggest distance-learning institution, the University of South Africa (UNISA), has over 350 000 students. Every one of those students gets something in the post, ranging from administrative documents to learning materials. The post is unreliable. Sometimes the wrong materials are posted. The institution never knows whether the package arrived at its destination.
As a result, some institutions like UNISA are implementing compulsory online study for many students. This is a problem: two-thirds of South Africans have no Internet access, even through mobile phones (according to South African census data). If you can’t afford internet access, or if you live in a place where personal Internet connections aren’t available, you can’t study through UNISA.
According to UNISA’s announcements, the shift to online learning is part of helping their students adapt to the digital age. In reality, the shift to online means that higher education is becoming even more inaccessible.
We believe Paperight can provide an alternative. Imagine if any student could walk into any copy shop (or NGO, church, or community centre), hand in their student number, and have the books they need for their course appear on the Paperight screen for instant printing.
The student would print what they need only when they need it. No waiting for the post to arrive. No travelling to the post office – instead, any nearby copy shop would do. And the institution would know as soon as the student had collected their materials. Plus, we’d reduce the carbon footprint of shipping printed materials around the country.
This service could be also used by any organisation that needs to get documents to specific people, such as trade unions, churches, schools, clubs, or journals with subscribers.
Outcome of the application
The Trust thought that our approach seemed to be a more efficient way of doing business than is currently happening, unfortunately this did not fit into their definition of social change, and we were unsuccessful this time around.
In October 2012 discussions started in the office as to whether it would be better for all the staff to be full-time Paperight employees or consultants contracted to the Shuttleworth Foundation.
It was decided in the end that we were all contracted employees of Paperight.
- According to legislative guidelines we would all be employees of Paperight from a legal perspective whether we decided to call ourselves employees or consultants.
- There were more expenses involved in being consultants for the company such as higher tax deductions, and accountants’ fees for calculating and reconciling annual income tax returns.
- Almost all staff are permanently based in the office.
- There was better job security as contract employees.
- The Shuttleworth Foundation consultancy agreement did not cover special conditions that some of had agreed upon in our employment contracts, such as working hours.
- We had three staff members with special religious conditions built into their contract with Paperight: Yazeed and Oscar as Muslims were given the freedom to leave the office during certain hours to pray at mosque and had been explicitly promised leave for Eid days. It was understood that Dezre as a Seventh Day Adventist was not able to work during Sabbath hours.
Factors that determine whether an employment relationship exists
These factors are determined by state regulations as inportant when considering whether someone is ’employed’:
- Whether the the worker is subject to the control or direction of the business
- Whether the workers hours of work are subject to control or direction
- Whether the worker forms part of the organisation
- Whether the worker works for an average of 40 hours or more per month
- Whether the worker is economically dependent on the business
- Whether the worker is equipped with tools to work with or whether they have their own
- Whether the worker is working for more than one business or not and whether the majority of the income is from the business.
The contractual relationship
The nature of the contract and the working relationship between the business and the person hired is very different if they are an employee or an independent contractor.
In the the independent-contractor scenario a person is contracted to do a specific job or a specific piece of work which must be delivered. The person who is doing the work is seen as a the agent and the business is seen as the principal. It is not a contract of employment, but related to performance of a predetermined task. There is less control over the agent (or independent contractor) than over the employee and there is no flexibility in terms of the related performance. This relationship is not governed by the Labour Relations Act or the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
It is important to note that all workers are presumed to be employees of a company unless it is proven otherwise.
We entered for the Innovation Award for Africa. This was our submission.
Everyone needs books to learn, imagine and explore. But in most of Africa, bookshops and libraries are rare and often poorly resourced. Most projects today are focusing on ebooks and mobile devices to solve this problem, but sadly, the ecosystems required to support these devices – and that includes the cost of devices, internet access, and electricity – mean that for most people, ebooks are many years away.
Paperight solves this problem today. Already, in every city and town in Africa, countless copy shops produce printed material for their communities. We empower those same copy shops to use Paperight’s online library to legally print out and sell books. Paperight instantly turns copy shops, schools, churches, and NGOs into print-on-demand bookstores.
Paperight acts as an instant rights marketplace where registered outlets can purchase licenses to print out books, quickly and easily, from a pre-paid account. This fee pays the publisher. The customer pays the copy shop one price, which includes the license fee and the copy shop’s printing cost.
A Paperight edition of a book is usually around 20% cheaper than a traditional print copy. So, Paperight helps to make books more accessible to customers, while also boosting the business of small entrepreneurs and publishing houses.
Most importantly, they are easier to find. Outside of wealthy suburbs, readers must travel long distances to bookshops to find books – and then those books may not even be in stock. With Paperight, any business could be a bookstore, only a short walk from home.
Level of advancement
Paperight is well into its start-up phase, and entering market phase. Early research and prototypes have been built and tested since 2009, and in May 2012 we launched our fully operative site. Within our first year we signed up over 200 outlets around South Africa, and have made our first revenue.
We are now looking to grow South African usage and then expand into other African countries.
In early 2012, Paperight (Pty) Ltd became a registered company based in South Africa. It is owned by Arthur Attwell (70%) and SF Isle of Man (the Shuttleworth Foundation, a Non-Profit Organisation, 30%).
How our innovation meets the IPA requirements
- Paperight enables other entrepreneurs to grow their businesses (by acting as bookstores copy shops increase printing turnover; and authors and publishers can reach new readers). These entrepreneurs and business owners can be reached through franchise associations, franchise head offices, copier dealers and paper suppliers, and they can be identified in standard consumer-facing directories. We provide promotional material to these copy shops to attract customers.
- More importantly, as soon as a consumer hears that their books and other documents can be easily acquired from any copy-shop business, the consumers themselves become our ambassadors.
- Paperight is also making revenue, and is actively building a business model around offerings its platform to institutions to replace postage with Paperight: where end-users collect documents from their nearest Paperight outlet rather than relying on the post to receive those documents (e.g. a distance-learning student could get customised study materials this way, rather than relying on the post).
- Paperight is the first instant-delivery rights-marketplace like this for books. Similar concepts have been tried by specific companies in other sectors (NewspaperDirect for newspapers, and National Geographic Map Machine for US tourism agents), but these focus on wealthy markets. Paperight meets a need for affordable, offline content on a continent where most people still struggle to find or afford Internet access, data and electricity.
- We also believe wholeheartedly in the value of openness: transparency and sharing is built into our team’s DNA. This openness many benefits: we waste no resources trying to keep secrets; we are forced to confront our failures bravely; and others share with us and trust us.
Since any organisation can register for free to use Paperight anywhere – copy shops, churches, schools, NGOs, Internet cafes and more – the system is massively scalable. From the ground up it is built to work in any country in any currency.
- As a social enterprise, Paperight Creates entrepreneurial opportunities for printing businesses and local authors, increases revenue and growth opportunities for existing businesses, increases access to educational material and boosts literacy, increases access to legal and healthcare information, provides a legal and affordable alternative to photocopy piracy, and reduces the carbon footprint associated with shipping books.
- The Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology uncovers and celebrates new writing talent in South Africa’s high schools in English, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Afrikaans.
- Our adopt a school campaign has also facilitated a number of sponsorships and partnerships between schools and Paperight outlets, allowing entire matric classes to affordably or freely get hold of Paperight exam packs and other educational resources on our system. These partnerships resulted in increased turnover for the copy shop entrepreneurs, and increased and more affordable access to matric learning resources for struggling schools.
- The Paperight system protects publishers by offering copy shops a practical, legal alternative to piracy, while making books accessible to anyone with any printer and a basic Internet connection. No special hardware or skills are required.
- Paperight.com has been designed to be fast and easy to use, so that it’s simpler than photocopying books manually. The site is built using only open-source software libraries.
Paperight’s primary users
Target market segment
- Paperight’s primary users are copy shops in low-income areas in Africa, who can then offer a valuable bookselling service within their local communities. Copy shops are ubiquitous in Africa: existing in nearly every town and village. Imagine we turned every one of them into a bookstore. Our service caters for everyone; and the more economically distressed and remote the community, the more they benefit from Paperight.
- Paperight’s clients include several publishing companies and over 200 outlets, most of which are copy shops in South Africa (see http://paperight.com/outlets). The publishers among these include Oxford University Press, Random House Struik, Jacana Media, and Modjaji Books.
- We began Paperight because most people in the world – perhaps six or seven billion – cannot afford to buy books. Many South Africans live their entire lives without owning a book. We founded Paperight specifically to address that problem, with the vision of bringing every book within walking distance of every home.
- Paperight has been built to scale. This means that it works in any country, and with any currency. In order for Paperight to have real efficacy around the world, however, we felt that we needed to build a strong foundation. We decided to focus on South Africa, creating a solid base from which to work. Outlets in the Paperight network stretch over the whole of South Africa, with loci around Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng.
- We have been endorsed by Parliament and our footprint in South Africa is growing rapidly. We have plans to also focus on other areas in the future including Kenya and Ghana.
Why our project is innovative and might lead to breakthroughs
- Paperight is the first instant-delivery rights-marketplace for books. On a continent where access to information – and books in particular – is severely lacking, Paperight revolutionises the way books can be traded. This is especially important in places where Internet access, data, and electricity are expensive or hard to come by.
- Traditionally, publishers and copy shops have been mutually distrusting. Paperight allows them to work together, in a simple manner, with a single purpose, for the first time. Never before have copy shops and publishers been able to enter into a legal licence agreement at the click of a button.
- The potential impact is immense. By turning copy shops into book shops, we’re making books available and affordable in places they’ve never been before, boosting literacy and education, and powering entrepreneurial printing businesses.
- Within a year of launching in 2012, over 200 copy shops and bookstores joined our network as outlets. And over 100 publishers from around the world are distributing books with us, including leading US firm O’Reilly Media, and the South African branches of Pearson, Oxford University Press, Pan Macmillan, and Random House Struik.
- Our member outlets have delivered thousands of books, many in places where no bookstores exist, like Peddie in the rural Eastern Cape, and the CBDs of Khayelitsha. It is difficult to gauge how many jobs these Paperight outlet sign-ups have created directly, although we have had a number of entrepreneurs base their businesses fully or partially on Paperight’s services. We will soon spend time on completing a full quantitative survey on the jobs created by Paperight in our outlets.
- Our model has been built with the view in mind of being able to expand its services in the future to ticket sales, 3D printing and similar initiatives.
Long term effects/impacts of your innovation on the primary users
- Boosting literacy and education by making books genuinely accessible
- Creating simple and low cost entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals.
- Boosting existing printing and publishing businesses, while still earning the same licence fees.
- Reducing the environmental impact of transporting, shipping books and documents, and the wastage caused by unnecessary printing and returns.
- Saving the costs of travel and risk of stock shortages.
- Bringing the world of books to anyone’s doorstep: rich or poor, rural or urban.
- Selling print-outs which are on average cheaper than traditional books.
- Reducing delays in textbook and student material delivery.
- Protecting the publishers, individuals by reducing illegal copying.
- Increasing business opportunities for existing copy shops throughout Southern Africa.
- Promoting past matric exam papers and additional study material to students.
- Sustaining the marketplace for publishers and authors.
- Opening the market to international copy shops and book stores.
- Assisting educational institutions and distance learners in South Africa and internationally to receive study material.
Collaboration partnerships and ownership
- Paperight (Pty) Ltd: Independent company registered in South Africa.
- The Shuttleworth Foundation: Currently funds the development of Paperight through Arthur Attwell’s Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship.
- Electric Book Works (Pty) Ltd: Paperight began as a project of EBW’s. EBW is a digital-publishing consultancy founded and owned by Arthur Attwell.
- Realm Digital: A software development company contracted by Paperight to build much of the Paperight software.
- Paperight (Pty) Ltd is owned by Arthur Attwell (70%) and SF Isle of Man (30%), the Shuttleworth Foundation is the primary funding entity.
- Paperight’s main site: http://paperight.com/
- Paperight’s blog: http://blog.paperight.com/
- Paperight’s Twitter account: https://twitter.com/paperight
- Paperight on Facebook: http://facebook.com/paperight
A selection of articles about Paperight:
- “No textbooks? No problem!”, an article in the Mail & Guardian about a Paperight-registered entrepreneur using Paperight and ICT to change his tiny, rural hometown for the better: http://mg.co.za/article/2012-07-05-no-textbooks-ill-print-them-for-you
- A follow-up interview with the same entrepreneur in You, South Africa’s biggest-selling weekly magazine: http://blog.paperight.com/media/you-article_20120722.pdf
- “New publishing models from the South: the case of Paperight”, an in-depth interview with Arthur Attwell about the genesis of Paperight on Alliance Lab: http://alliance-lab.org/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=item&item_id=26&Itemid=16
- “Innovation could solve book crisis,” an article written about Paperight partly in response to unfolding book distribution crises in Southern Africa: http://www.it-online.co.za/2012/07/23/innovation-could-solve-book-crisis/
- “Gutenberg in the copy shop”, a short article about Paperight from the perspective of an independent publishing house in the United States: http://mhpbooks.com/gutenberg-in-the-copy-shop/
- Bringing education to the developing world: http://startups.fm/2013/07/18/paperight-cracks-the-code-to-bringing-education-to-the-developing-world-with-its-print-on-demand-publishing-platform.html
- Arthur Attwell at TEDxCapeTown: http://www.tedxcapetown.org/video/every-book-within-walking-distance-every-home-arthur-attwell
- Paperight’s explainer video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW4lwI0C1I0
- Interview with Arthur Attwell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PjGufg2m3c
- Paperight documentary with Pelikan Park High School in Pelikan Park: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs69YVQLI4U
- Paperight documentary with Silverstream Secondary School in Manenberg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMY3mRz0aBo
- Paperight Young Writers Anthology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6Y6IcgLNW8
Link to relevant photos
One of our sponsorship opportunities that we wanted to promote further was a campaign to ‘adopt a prison’. We recognised a need for supplying books to prisons, especially for matriculants.
We identified three potential leads to possibly connect with in the future:
- Anthony Dew – Project Leader and GM for Tsodilo Media
- Soraya Solomon – CEO of Nicro
- Johanna de Beer – Western Cape Library Services
To date we haven’t been able to follow up on this.