Sunday, 23 June 2024

Sparrow’s Tucker: “Our mission is to end digital poverty and to create an inclusive world"

5 min read

By Amy Tucker

Amy Tucker, during the Wealth and Society 2018, spoke about the importance of technology in developing lives and giving opportunities to people who don’t have sufficient access.

Here is the transcript:

Male Speaker: your philantrophy and also meaning the company that uses technology will actually create an impact at each transaction subscription you will explain that later. So, I’m really curious to hear from you how you made this happen. It’s quite fascinating when I see … But you also already …. here is also as an advisor to … and all this is … Thank you. And I'm curious to hear …  

Amy: Thank you, Ernest. I'm really excited to share the stories that we went over. I think … I'm an actual, real-world, social entrepreneur here. It’s so exciting.

So, first this I discovered on the flight over. I had a little time; just a little. I’m flying over San Francisco and I came across this video and it just blew me away. So, Lawrence, if you could flip over to the video, that’d be great.

So, if you can't quite see what’s happening here, you’ll see in a moment, just wait for it here it comes, here it comes. Wait for it, wait for it. All right. Okay. The car is moving, obviously, and what’s happening is there’s a guy sitting in his office on the second floor, and he’s in a two-hour parking spot. And he has a Tesla, and through a little app on his phone, he moves his car back and forth, so he doesn’t get a parking ticket.

 Is that a neat trick? I love that. So, thank you, Lawrence. That was perfect. I just had to share that with you, because I think it really underscores a great point. And I'm really excited actually to be on this panel. And then Alex, he talks a lot about some other similar subjects that we’re trying to…

 So, while mobile technology in smart phones, it’s really my worldview at the moment, has just rapidly expanded. It was 11 years ago that Steve Jobs found… And now we’re parking our cars with them. I think that’s so great, but at the same time, there are 4 billion people who don’t have access. And we call it digital poverty and other terms digital information, right?

So, what it means is that while those of us who are lucky enough to have access and the good fortune to know how to use it and to be able to get it and afford it, those who don’t have it are being left behind just further and faster, and to really just accelerating that gap.

So, that is what the values here at Sparrow. Sparrow is a US wireless company. Our mission is to end digital poverty and to create a more inclusive world for everyone.

Our model is simple and scalable, right? So, for every person who subscribes to Sparrow’s service, somebody in need get sponsored. And it’s very intentional private sourcing way of approaching the problem in the US.


So, I wanted to address this, because I know Ernest had questions. We use existing members. So, Verizon and Sprint. Sparrow customers get the top-tier networks, they get excellent customer care, and they at knowing about the difference that we make in the world.

On the impact side we focus on specific areas of underscored communities. So, for us, we would have, women, homeless, and refugees. We partnered up with amazing organizations all around the world and in the US to really deliver services in a way that we scale our partners…

I will share with you, we haven’t had reports of any securities. You can go to our website,

So, what does this look like in practice? All right, from an impact sampling, one of our pillar programs is called Refugee Mobile. And so, for example, a family that’s been resettled in the United States, in this case it’s for two months, when they first arrived they get a smart phone that is loaded with helpful apps like Duolingo for learning English.

There’s also banking information. Transportation. Just useful stuff, right? We all need it. We all know how. And they get six months of data service. And our goal is to get them a little bit of a springboard to help them integrate more effectively. So, for our particular model, and I love the panel discussion, measures and outcomes are critical.

Every single programs do has really set goals. And they very intentionally measure our outcomes and see if they reach it or not. So, for Refugee Mobile, this I'm really excited about, we just started our final study back. We partnered up with a University. They are our valuation partner, so we actually know like yes, its working, no it’s not.

And some of the things that we discovered are remarkable. So, I don’t have the whole – all of the research here, but that report will be coming out this quarter. Some of the highlights, 38 percent of our RefugeeMobile participants were more likely your teacher at school… right?

Forty-five percent – this is really remarkable, especially in the US where we have this very strange thing happen … 45 percent of our participants were more likely to interact with somebody from another culture. Awesome.

And in this one, it’s minor, but I love it; 9 percent were more likely to say they were fluent to converse in English versus zero people in the control group, zero people with… So, we know the really smart ones. I think that the thing is bottom line it’s are really excited is that they were more likely to be employed and higher salaries.

So, just by equipping somebody with a smart phone, when they first arrived, intentional applications, and then six months of service gives a massive difference. So, we’re very proud of this program.

Some other big highlights, and I know I've got a little bit of time, so I won't go into the same, but if anybody has any questions, please see me later. This is a program for… If you’re a world leader, wonderful, on proposition to eradicate. So, we sponsor a school in Kenya where the kids all get digital readers, and on each digital reader, there are over 4,000 books. So, these kids go from no library, no access to books, to each one having their own library in the palms of their hands.

So, this particular program, this is based in Malaysia, and it’s through the Cherie Blair Foundation. They put this on. So, in this particular program, it’s entrepreneurs for connecting the mentors through smart phones.

This is a program that’s very near and dear to my heart in San Francisco. We have – oh wait. I wanted to square it up. If not, that’s okay, but we've got a… So, we a lot of work locally, getting smart phones to people who are in a house, so that they can get housing and jobs, because it’s really hard to get housing or a job if you don’t have a smart phone, right?

And last but not least I just want to highlight black girls code, So, how – has anybody heard this program? Yeah. A couple. So, this is a program in the United States where they teach girls of color to be programmers, we sponsor workshops around the country. They get smart phones and they practice making mobile apps.

So, what’s brilliant here is it’s teaching some education to people who don’t really have the access in the hope and the goal is that we’ll rediscover the lost... There’s all of this talent all around the world, but don’t have the access, right. So, if we can get them plugged in, just think of all the changes that are going to be unlocked.

So, back to our model. Why are we … and why is it, you know, when somebody stands up, the response is somebody else but me. It’s actually our super …  So, while the impact giving somebody a smart phone, giving them data access, it’s very direct. What our customers don’t realise is they also receive the impact.

And so, through the program, we are assuming our customers want us to let them know we are making a difference. We are seeking hopefully … with us. We are growing in hearts and minds, and awareness benefit we can get, right?

So, I’ll pause and because this is a financial forum, another way that we are innovating is through our funding. So, Sparrow is for profit. We are…  And we actually have some… I am so excited to talk to you, because we actually have some of our early investors from the early stage, and that’s the high-risk part of the company. Its hardest part to get funded, and we had some amazing, impact investors step up to the table.

So, Sorenson Impact Foundation is our investor. 500 is your traditional Silicon Valley accelerator people love that because it has your seal of approval. The Ayliffe Family Foundation an impact fund.  And Tides which I’ll come back to in a second. So, we have wonderful impact investment, and then we also qualify for grants, which is pretty unusual for a for-profit company. We are able to do that because our programs and our benefits impact has been extremely vetted, and it is – I think the way things are evolving. They’re kind of on the forward edge ­of impact investment and investment philanthropy and shared funds.

So, Tides Foundation, who’s heard of Tides? Oh you . Oh good.  Okay. If you haven’t, check them out. They are a pretty interesting organisation. They had two parts. One is an impact investment fund for…. You can move dollars into the Sparrow Tides fund.

Or if you want to – if you’re a philanthropic investor and you want the charitable tax benefit, you can invest in the Sparrow Tides fund and get that tax benefit. And then, impact fund, invests in Sparrow, and then the returns to Sparrow go back in the impact fund and can be invested into other accounts. So, that’s pretty exciting. And then the other fund we have is the program fund for refugee people.  

So, I wanted to end with a little what’s it all about? right? And I felt like this quote was very appropriate. It’s from Jim Yong Kim who is the head of the World Bank, and he says, ‘We must continue to connect everyone and leave no one behind, because the cost of lost opportunities is enormous.’ I think it’s just so true.

So, that’s pretty much the Sparrow story. It’s absolutely delightful to be here to share that with you, and I am looking forward to questions and I thank you.

Keywords: High-net Work Individuals, Social Responsibility
Institution: Sparrow
People: Amy Tucker
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