What’s behind those friendly faces?

From Mediae.org:

Shamba Shape Up is a practical, make-over style TV series aimed at East Africa’s rapidly growing rural and peri-urban TV audience and designed to deliver effective agricultural and livelihoods Research-Into-Use to benefit both farmers and international research organizations concerned with East Africa.

Through carefully explained, practical demonstrations, the series shows how different practical and accessible methods and approaches can bring about significant livelihood improvements on small farms, often at very low – or even no –cost.

Here’s the first episode of Shamba Shape Up:

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The “e-i-ization” of everything (including cows)

… and on that farm he had some cows / ee i ee i oh!

Please forgive me for the bad joke, but I couldn’t avoid using the lyrics of the famous children’s song as an introduction to this post. I will briefly explain what I mean by the e-i-ization of everything, and will also review iCow: yet another SMS-based information service for farmers in Kenya.

iCow logo

iCow logo

e-agriculture, e-learning, e-banking (sometimes also m-banking) on one hand… and on the other, iPhones, iPads, iCows. We are living in times where adding the e- or i prefix to anything turns it into something new and exciting. In the first case, e- stands for electronic, implying that the service in question has grown out of its analog phase, and entered a digital one. The i prefix may seem a bit less obvious, but it’s really what it seems: i as in I, myself. I searched the Internet for the meaning of the i in iPhones, and this is what I found: Continue reading

Devices, devices …

According to Moore’s Law, the processing power of many digital devices doubles approximately every two years. We can see this reflected on the hardware market: there is a new, improved model for practically any existing device every few months. Regardless of a possible discussion on whether it’s the market that currently drives Moore’s Law, or vice-versa, we have all found ourselves with a device that becomes prematurely obsolete in our hands. And it’s true that newer devices tend to open up new possibilities for their users. Choosing the right device for giving support to a development project, such as those reviewed in this blog, is all about the possibilities it can offer, together with its viability and its rate of penetration in the community.

Transistor Count and Moore's Law (2011)

Transistor Count and Moore's Law (2011) Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Freedom Fone

Freedom Fone is an open source mobile application which was born from the question: “How do we get information that matters to those who need it most?”. This application creates interactive, voice-based communication services for organisations or individuals seeking to engage with communities across mobile networks.

Source: freedomfone.org

Source: freedomfone.org

Freedom Fone was created by the people at Kubatana, an organization based in Zimbabwe which aims to strengthen the use of email and Internet strategies in Zimbabwean NGOs and civil society organisations. At their website, Kubatana make human rights and civic education information accessible. Continue reading

Citizen reporting in Kenya through SMS and the web.

It is amazing to see just how many mobile technology projects for development are happening in Kenya! But why has Kenya been such a fertile ground for these projects? In a paper titled “Mobile Telephony in Kenya… is it ‘Making the life better’?“, Luca Manica and Michele Vescovi examine the situation:

At the end of 2007, Kenyan mobile operators offer services to more than ten million people so that nowadays one in three adults carry a cell-phone in Kenya and about the 80% of Kenyans are covered by mobile network signals.

These are impressive numbers. However, Manica and Vescovi point out that it is difficult to establish the actual penetration of mobile phones in Kenya, because of the sharing of handsets and mobile payphones. Official numbers are around 30%, which is actually low in comparison to other African countries such as Nigeria or South Africa. This would mean that there are still about 25 million Kenyans to sell phones to. The great market potential, together with the fact that the mobile phone industry contributed to more than 5% of GDP in Kenya in 2006 brings Manica and Vescovi to raise the question: Is the mobile rush in Kenya just a matter of business, or is it really aimed to human and social development?


Technology and Human Development

Technology and Human Development. Source: Manica and Vescovi

I will analyze the paper by Manica and Vescovi more closely in a future post. For now, bear in mind this quick glimpse on the Kenyan mobile rush as I present Voice of Kibera: an SMS and web-based citizen reporting system developed by the people who created Ushahidi. Continue reading

SMS tools for farmers created by women

M-Farm is a Kenyan company which produces an SMS-based mobile application (also called M-Farm) that delivers market and pricing information to local farmers. M-Farm allows farmers to:

  • Inquire current market prices of different crops from different regions and/or specific markets.
  • Aggregate their needs/orders and connect them with farm input suppliers.
  • Sell collectively and connect with a ready market.

Significantly, M-Farm was founded and is being led by a team of three women: Jamila Abass, CEO and co-founder, web and mobile developer, Linda Kwamboka, CMO and co-founder, and Susan Eve Oguya, CTO and co-founder, who describes herself as a mobile and research junkie. Continue reading

Agricultural advice through radio and SMS

from National Geographic News Watch:

John Cheburet is a Kenyan radio producer who hosts a radio show about ecologically friendly farming practices for small-scale farmers. He is seen (and heard) by the farming community as a friendly source of information which is vital for their livelihoods.

John Cheburet

John Cheburet. Source: J. Cheburet

John says: An important thing about radio is that farmers can listen to other farmers. It’s one thing for me to tell them about growing mushrooms, but when a fellow farmer tells them how to grow mushrooms, the impact is much greater. It is effective when farmers relive their story; how they started out and what made them adopt certain farming practices. Continue reading

What is the role of mobile banking in small-scale agriculture?

Mobile banking, or m-banking, is the provision of banking or financial services with the help of mobile phones. These services can include: performing balance checks, account transactions, payments or credit applications. “Anywhere banking” is mostly accessed via SMS messages, although newer smartphones enable the usage of mobile broadband.

Although there are different types of mobile banking, the following diagram illustrates its core architecture:

Mobile banking architecture

Mobile banking architecture. Source: http://palisade.plynt.com

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Access to information

When it comes to agriculture, access to localized information is priceless: about weather updates, crop prices, agriculture innovation techniques, crop illness, alert on plagues and other community-related information.

Farmers in Tanzania holding a mobile phone. Source: Sauti ya wakulima

In many developing countries, mobile networks have leapfrogged other communication technologies, such as landline phones. Leapfrogging happens when developing societies find ways towards higher standards of living by bypassing the limitations and the deployment of infrastructure that other societies have had to carry out.
Even the most basic mobile phones offer SMS, making it the ideal medium to convey brief but direct text messages. Continue reading

Connected agriculture: Mobiles help drive efficiency and sustainability in food and agriculture

from Agricultural Information News:

A new report from Vodacom and Accenture argues that mobile communications can help to meet the challenge of feeding an estimated 9.2 billion people by 2050.

The study identifies 12 specific opportunities that could increase agricultural income by around US$138 billion by 2020. Continue reading