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"Clever services on cheap mobile phones make a powerful combination—especially in poor countries"

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[News]
  
Late last year mPedigree launched a mobile service in Ghana and Nigeria that could make a dent in the fake-drug trade. People buying medicine scratch off a panel attached to the packaging. This reveals a code, which they can text to a computer system that looks it up in a database. Seconds later comes a reply saying whether the drug is genuine. The service is paid for by pharmaceutical companies that want to thwart the counterfeiters. Hewlett-Packard runs the computer system and found a cheap way to print the scratch-off labels...
 
This is just one of many such services mushrooming in poor countries, using mobile-phone technology that once carried only humble voice and text messages. Rohan Samarajiva, the boss of LIRNEasia, a think-tank in Sri Lanka, calls it “more than mobile". Jussi Hinkkanen, Nokia’s head of policy in Africa, says the mobile revolution is moving "from ear to hand"...
 
Classifying mobile services in poor countries is not an exact science. Richard Heeks, director of the Centre of Development Informatics at the University of Manchester, sorts them by their impact on development. One category is services that “connect the excluded”. In their simplest form they provide information to those who would otherwise be out of the loop. Farmer’s Friend in Uganda, for instance, sends out market prices and other agricultural information in text messages.
 
Such services have been around for some time, but they have become more common—and much more varied. Nokia now provides its Ovi Life Tools, a set of information services from weather to sport, to more than 6m users of its handsets in China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria. Esoko, a Ghanaian “communication platform”, in the words of Mark Davies, its founder, allows two-way communication: people and businesses in 15 African countries can upload their own market or other data, which then become accessible via the internet and mobile phones...
 
Mobile trading platforms are also in this category. At first most of them focused on agricultural goods: Dialog Tradenet in Sri Lanka lets farmers check market prices and text in offers, helping them to time their harvest to maximise income. But many, including Dialog Tradenet, have other things on offer. In India, Babajob.com lists low-skilled jobs. The most popular items on CellBazaar in Bangladesh are second-hand mobile phones. For people with some cash to spare, KenyaBUZZ, one of the larger local websites in east Africa, is selling tickets for cultural and sports events over the phone...
 
A second category of services includes those that cut out the middleman, or at least keep tabs on him. This is especially helpful in using government services. In the Indian state of Karnataka, corrupt officials would often demand a bribe before issuing landownership certificates, which farmers need, for instance, to obtain a loan. The Bhoomi project helps them directly, by using the internet and mobile phones.
 
Disintermediation is also made possible by mobile money. Services to transfer cash by text message have been around for some years. One of the most successful, M-PESA, began in 2007 in Kenya, where it now has more than 13m users. It is now used for salaries, bills, donations: few things cannot be paid for via a handset. Similar services can be found in more than 40 countries. Though not yet on the same scale, this seems to be only a question of time: in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, more people have a mobile phone than a bank account (see chart 2)"
 
Economist Article-  Read more...

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Student101's picture
United Kingdom
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Hello, I am also a postgraduate student at Birkbeck, University of London, where I am completing a MSc. in International Business and Development.  I am currently writing my dissertation on the socio-economic impact of mobile phones on smallholder farmers.I am seeking to discover how mobile technology such as SMS, helplines, information services and the Internet have made a difference in agriculture.I have completed the following survey which I would like to invite you to complete by 19th Sept and share as widely as possible: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NHMZTT5

Thank you!

 

 

 

Student101's picture
United Kingdom
Offline

Hello, I am a postgraduate student at Birkbeck, University of London, where I am completing a MSc. in International Business and Development.  I am currently writing my dissertation on the socio-economic impact of mobile phones on smallholder farmers.I am seeking to discover how mobile technology such as SMS, helplines, information services and the Internet have made a difference in agriculture.I have completed the following survey which I would like to invite you to complete by 19th Sept and share as widely as possible: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NHMZTT5

Thank you!