Siyavula Education is a company that is building a sustainable business around open educational resources by maximising accessibility. While our openness is key to our current success it also presents unique challenges for a business. Siyavula was incubated within the Shuttleworth Foundation as an OER project and has now received venture capital from PSG Financial Services.
Of the 12 million learners in government schools in South Africa, 5 million learners currently have an openly-licensed, printed book for at least one subject, this will jump to 9 million learners in January 2014. While the Department of Basic Education has saved approximately ZAR200M (USD 25M) in doing so, the Siyavula business model is not tied to this value proposition.
By focusing on accessibility of the content in a device agnostic way, we have 420,000 (200,000 Maths and 220,000 Science) Grade 10-12 visitors on web and mobile devices and 430,000 (210,000 Math and 220,000 Science) Grade 10-12 visitors on Mxit (a chat client that supports low-end feature phones). The value of using open content, open standards and focusing on access to quality OER resources presents a unique opportunity to have widespread impact in the education sector and necessitate a shift at the policy level.
In addition, it provides the ideal testing ground for business models built around OERs that go beyond cost saving. The lack of remuneration for titles printed and distributed has been a fundamental part of Siyavula?s ability to engage with policy makers and schools but necessitates delivering value elsewhere for sustainability.
Siyavula, despite being a for-profit company, has successfully engaged with sponsors to cover hard costs of title production as they have recognised the leveraged investment that unlocking an open title in partnership with Siyavula represents, giving them national impact and with core content being released under a CC-BY licence.
The massive footprint afforded through accessibility presents further opportunities to deliver premium services and look to analytics to inform strategic decision making at the policy level. In these areas it is possible to add unique value on which Siyavula hinges long-term sustainability. I will present the details of our current business model. I will also discuss how taking the openness value proposition beyond cost-saving benefits has been key to our success as well as the options that we have explored and the challenges that we have faced in finalising our business model.