Entries in mobile phone (3)


Gates on communication, technology and the future of smallholder farming

Bill Gates is best known for his role in founding Microsoft, but his interests -- and the interests of the Gates Foundation -- include the search for ways to improve the lives of poor, smallholder farmers in Africa. He blogged this month about ways in which he sees technology enabling a better future for agriculture on that continent.

Noting that the rapid spread of mobile technology is revolutionizing financial services for those with smaller incomes, Gates suggests that the same infrastructure can change the face of farming as well.

The key issue is the farmers' lack of ability to communicate with the broader agricultural markets. Without this stream of information, farmers can’t grow crops based on the market’s requirements because they don’t know the specifications.

Further, without a more direct and rapid channel of communication, farmers have no way to learn the agricultural practices that could allow them to vastly improve yields. Instead, they grow mostly what they can eat or trade locally, the way they’ve always grown it.

Gates is hopeful that, with time and effort, mobile technology can bridge the communication gap and transform the African agricultural landscape.

When information can flow easily, when data is democratized, the cost of doing business in agriculture goes way down, just as transaction costs go way down when financial transactions are digital."

I encourage you to read the blog, and check out the associated video.

-- Yan Toh




The benefits of connected farming in emerging markets

Click on image to enlargeFarmers in emerging markets are facing their fair share of challenges when trying to improve their livelihoods and increase production to meet growing demand - a lack of infrastructure and information, financial barriers and the looming threat of water scarcity and climate change, to name a few. According to a recently released report by Vodafone, in order to overcome these challenges farmers in emerging markets are turning to mobile solutions.

The report explores the successes achieved and further potential impact from Vodafone rolling out six connectivity services to India, designed to help farmers and agricultural businesses to increase yield, improve efficiency and to boost incomes and rural livelihoods, all while reducing their environmental footprint.

Vodafone's six initiatives help support information services, receipt services, payments and loans, field audits, access to local markets and smartphone-enabled services. The benefits of the services are abundant – better access to information about agricultural best practices and weather forecasts, better access to information on market prices and the ability to connect more easily with buyers, improved communication and efficiency in agricultural supply chains, a reduction in fraud and losses, better access to capital and financial services and reduced travel time and costs.

According to the report, these six services alone have the potential to positively impact the lives of nearly 70 million Indian farmers in 2020, generating over $9 billion in additional annual income for farmers – that's an average $128 increase in income for over 60% of Indian farmers.

Image source: Vodaphone

-- Yan Toh


New routes to financial inclusion

As we look at ways the new consumer class will differ from the Western model--one question to ask is: Will they have traditional bank accounts, or rely on emerging solutions?

An article in the Economist this month points to many ways in which people are succeeding along the latter path, as mobile phone and smart card technologies make faster inroads across developing areas than large-scale banking infrastructure. In many places, governments and entrepreneurs are unbundling services traditionally provided by banks and delivering them more effectively.

In Kenya, for instance, 75% of Kenyan adults a mobile payment system called M-PESA that works phone to phone using a simple text-messaging system. According to the Economist, it is so widespread that "some reckon almost half of the country’s GDP flows through it."

As with many issues touching on the middle of the diamond, the scale of the trend is large: 2.5 billion adults—more than 50% of the global adult population—lack bank accounts. How they ultimately participate in the financial system will have a significant impact on global business.

Image Source: Economist, November 15, 2014

-- Clara Shen