Those involved with urban service provision may benefit from examining the market development approach to business development services. The emphasis upon the municipal government as facilitator rather than as main service provider has echoes in the market development approach, as does the importance of enabling small service providers to enter the formal market, and provide a service more responsive to the poor and with greater outreach than public sector provision. This article includes some lessons from urban service provision by small enterprises and presents the challenges that remain to be solved.
Oasis is a website that is amed at overcoming the shortage of relevant business information for micro and small enteprises (MSEs) in Kenya. The design and updating of the website is carried out centrally, but to encourage the dissemination of information to MSEs, a group of 'infomediaries' were trained to download the information at internet bureaus, and to sell it to MSEs. Experience in two towns shows that MSEs were willing to pay for the information from Oasis, and that infomediaries were able to cover their costs. The time taken to research and upload useful sector-specific information centrally is considerable, however, and as yet income from sponsorship and advertising does not cover this cost. The article recommends that business information that is researched for Oasis could also be used in other outlets, such as radio programmes, and costs could be shared in this way.