M-development: a mirage or a reality?


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  • Africa (more recent stats show 350 million subscribers)
  • Over the last decade we’ve seen the socio-economic benefits of mobile telephony on the lives of poor rural people. We’ve seen how thanks to mobile phones those who were previously both socially and economically excluded are now actively participating in the economy and are able to connect with their families and friends. We’ve seen how basic mobile phone supports bottom-up economic development, provides entrepreneurship opportunities and gives a voice to poor rural poor. We’ve seen how mobile phones support the informal sector.
    Benefits of mobile phone can be defined in 3 categories:
    Incremental  improving the speed and efficiency of what people already do
    Transformational  offering something new
    Productive  offering employment, income opportunity
  • Transformational aspect has led to using the phone in new ways and thus development of number of m-applications covering all sectors
    We’ve seen many pilots
    We’ve seen how users have pushed the phone to its limit which has resulted in innovative uses such as integrating M-PESA application with mobile insurance schemes, or Lifelink which allows users to buy water credit with their M-PESA account, or a taxi driver in Zambia using his phone’s internet browser to diagnose diseases.
    We’ve also seen how money transfer applications such as M-PESA have created a new banking paradigm and how the “unbankables” today can save, ask for credit and have suddenly become “bankable”.
    We have applications such as Esoko, Farmer’s friend, Google Trader that provide agricultural (crop protection, advisory services)
    and price-related information
    Employment  a point of reference to be contacted, receive txt when a job available (formal and informal sector)
    Governance: Ushahidi: crowd sourcing, monitoring elections
    Health: Reminders for HIV/AIDs patient to take drugs or the Zambian taxi driver who imparts diagnosis
    Transport: Covering the entire agricultural value chain  e.g. Esokok (get price, find customer, find who can transport product from point a to point b)
  • Designed in 2006 as part of IFAD-funded smallholder enterprise marketing programme to create a market information system which allows smallholder producers to access accurate market prices. This was done together with Zambia National Farmer Union
    Why successful?
    Easy to understand and information available upon request as opposed to pushing content
    Good rural coverage
    Service hosted in an institution which was deemed legitimate and credible  strong executive management team
    Service available to smallholder farmers and traders – no subscription, pay as you go along for services
    Demand-driven service and responded to evolving market needs. The service responds to the constraints faced by smallholder farmers and traders, namely:
    Access to credit
    Poor transport network
    Limited info on price, technology and market trend
    Limited business and negotiation skills
    Weak organizations
    Weak bargaining power
    Uses cellphone to deliver the following services:
    Field-level decision making about farming:
    Provides info on price, volumes required and where what is required
    Good marketing campaign with trained service providers
    How does it work:
    Provides lists of 180 traders (more than 50% are active) and prices they offer for each commodity
    Best traders offering is listed first
    Producers sends an SMS using first 4 letter of a commodity to 4455
    Receives SMS listing best price and code of potential buyer
    Producer can drill down to district and province. E.g. Maize LUSA (for lusaka)
    Producer selects buyers and sends SMS with buyer code
    Receives SMS with buyer detail and how to meet up
    SMS cost 15 cents
  • Improve bargaining power: better access to markets and able to participate on equal footing with traders
    Reduce transaction costs
    Shift in crop patterns to produce high value produces thanks to secure actionable market information
    Do not over produce, this way do not have storage problems
    Diversify by targetting different markets and traders
    Provide weekly price updates
    Source of market information from large number of traders
    Started of by providing prices for non-perishable commodities commonly produced by Zambia farmers
    Business model: revenue thru ads and sponsorship
    Info about service and market prices is also broadcast on radio  blending and convergence of old and new ICTs. Radio programme broadcast in English and 7 local language
    Identify trends in price differences and get to the root cause (market distortion, seasonal trends) and flag emergent food insecurity
    Strong govt participation  part of national policy
    Attracted local private sector and banking institutions and major cellphone providers
  • Annual cost does not include awareness campaign (40,000 x year)
    Government participation absolutely crucial
  • There is evidence that subsistence and smallholder farmers are increasingly using text, voice messaging and unstructured supplementary service data to access information, such as weather forecast and market prices.
    At the same time, studies show that poor rural people are willing to spend more or less 50% of their disposable incomes on mobile communications.
    Thanks to all the pilots, we’ve learnt that for m-applications to be successful they need to serve multiple purposes and at the same time have a functioning, dynamic and productive mobile ecosystem where different stakeholders are responsible for the following aspects:
    setting up
    Dev countries see the mobile phone with a laptop lens. For them mobile phone is a tool that allows them to use it for transactions and at the same time provides access to data and information and keeps them connected with their families
    How to mainstream pilots? Who can do it? Is this a one man show or a partnership?
  • Definitely all the stakeholders including donors and development agencies can:
    play a role to make sure m-applications are usable – there is no use of developing an application with lots of bells and whistles which does not do what it supposed to do, or worse, does not meet the immediate needs of the farmer
    use the learning from past failures and successes – which means that we all need to get better in documenting and sharing our learning
    use participatory approach and involve users in the design of the application and content creation process
  • Everyone talks about partnering with the private sector. At the same time, increasingly private sector service providers have corporate social responsibility programmes. However, we know that a private sector company will not embark in an adventure if the initiative has little or no prospect for making profit. At the same time, we also know that the priority for private sector company is to come up with innovative products and services to maintain their market niche or to dominate the market.
    Another important factor is that the private sector lives on the fast lane and fast track. Government, donor agencies and in general the public sector works within the confines of bureaucracy and this often does not resonate with private sector way of working.
    So, quite frankly speaking, I see private and public sector as two separate circles, who are continuously struggling to find an intersection point.
    Perhaps we all have to come terms with the fact that this partnership will not be on equal footing. Rather, if we want to achieve the bigger good, we need to abide by the rules of the “stronger” species. This begs another question, can we as development practitioners who depend on public money do so?
  • As development workers, we are faced with the challenge of how we can make m-development a reality. For sure we cannot put our heads in the sand and ignore it…. So somehow or another we need to make it happen.
    What can we do?
    Encourage investment in infrastructure  WHO and HOW?
    Invest in capacity building, literacy programmes
    Once the successful pilot is identified, write about it but also do not forget to UPSCALE IT!!!!!! Publications do not bring progress
    Do not duplicate efforts but coordinate
    Make sure rural development investments have an ICT4D component
  • This means we need to engage with, work with and invest in local talents – people who know what their peers want and need. At the same time we need to work on blending old and new ICTs so that we can reach out to the entire “user base”.
    If we get serious and do this we’ll end up converging what smallholder farmers, fishers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples NEED with what they WANT.
    To create a virtuous circle and help poor rural people to come out poverty, while understanding the constraints of rural information economy, development projects need to ensure that smallholder producers are integrated and participating in local, regional and global markets and have access to:
    price information in such a way that they can make planting decision and not just focus on post-harvest
    good cultivation practice – pre and post harvest
    inputs, seeds, fertilizer and pesticides
    information on improved crop varieties, pest and disease management
    financial and insurance services
    weather information
    The challenge is to see how we can develop and rollout m-applications and services that meet the smallholder producers needs and cover the entire value chain, knowing very well that there will not be a “one size fits all” application.
    For m-applications to be successful they need to use common and popular features and if local capacity is used, they would be able to cater for local needs, contribute to the economy and build local talents.
    I am just wondering how long will it take farmers, fishers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples to become content producers and consumers?
    How long will it take them to develop their dream m-application allowing them to cover the entire value chain?
  • Can we possibly conceive of connecting farmers, fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples from across the globe with mobile phones?
    I bet you anything, once farmers get to know each other and start interacting with each other, they will start both sharing solutions and coming up with surprising and innovative solutions.. I bet you we’ll get some extraordinary and priceless input which will allow the bigger agriculture community to develop and implement a user-driven m-application.
    Because :
    we’ll be hearing their voices and getting to know what are the needs
    We’ll be transforming content consumers into content producers
    Allowing everyone to freely share their knowledge and experience
    Promoting mobility
    Promote demand-driven and locally relevant content
    Transform subsistence farming into a viable business  cover the entire value chain  Farmers are business people and like any other businessman/woman their preferred tool is the mobile phone!!!
    ICTs can improve rural livelihoods:
    if interests of different parties intersect
    if the disconnect between on-the-ground efforts to address local information needs and policy processes is bridged
    if there is a good understanding of local context and need needs of poor rural people are met
    if there is a commitment to disseminate information in a timely and transparent manner
    if content consumers become content providers
  • We just need a bit of will power, solid partnership , risk taking, innovating, admitting when we make mistakes and change course immediately
  • M-development: a mirage or a reality?

    1. 1. M-development: A mirage or a reality? Roxanna Samii IFAD www.ifad.org Ifad-un.blogspost.com www.twitter.com/ifadnews r.samii@ifad.org www.twitter.com/rsamii rsamii.blogspot.com November 2010
    2. 2. Promising numbers • Global: 4.6 billion subscribers (ITU, 2009) • Africa: 264.5 million subscribers (ITU, 2008) • Sub-saharan Africa: 60% coverage (ITU, 2009)
    3. 3. Mobile phone: catalyst for m-development • Social and economic inclusion • Employment opportunity • New service industry • Access to information • Mobile banking: banking the “unbankable” • Good governance
    4. 4. M-applications • Agriculture • Education • Employment • Financial services • Governance • Health • Transport
    5. 5. IFAD’s Zambia experience: ZUFU4455 • Responded to needs of Zambian smallholder farmers and traders • Open to all farmers and traders • Covered entire value chain • Distinguished between MARKET and MARKETING info • Little or no bells and whistles
    6. 6. ZUFU4455: Success indicators • Improved bargaining power • Reduced transaction cost • Shifted cropping patterns to high- value produces • Crop and harvest what is needed • Target different markets and traders • Blending of old and new ICTs • Identify price differences and trends • Strong government participation • Attracted private sector
    7. 7. ZUFU4455: the numbers • 15% women use service • 90% traders and 60% farmers benefited from service • 40% negotiated better price • 52% sold to different buyers • 23% build new trading relationship • 50%+ increased income • 30% started growing cash crop and engaged in livestock • 90% calls resulted in a transaction • Euro 30,000 annual cost http://www.farmprices.co.zm/
    8. 8. Pilots show that: • Rural people are willing to spend on ICT4D • M-applications need to serve multiple purposes • Developing countries SEE and WANT mobile phones as the preferred information delivery system • One man show? Or partnership?
    9. 9. M-development: A partnership • Smallholder producers • Government, policy makers + regulators • Mobile network operators + service providers • Handset manufactures • Content providers + m-application developers • Private sector + small/medium-size enterprises • Donors • Civil society
    10. 10. Partnership on equal footing?
    11. 11. Making m-development a reality • Encourage investment in infrastructure (towers, electricity) • Invest in primary/secondary education • Scale up successful and sustainable interventions • Make a case for better coordination among sectors • Include and invest in ICT4D
    12. 12. There is no “one size fits all” • Work with and invest in local talents • Blend old and new ICTs • Cover the entire value chain • Develop multi-purpose m-applications that meet local needs
    13. 13. Vision for development 2.0 • Connect and serve 500 million small farms around the world • Transform content consumers to content producers • Democratize access to experience • Promote mobility • Promote demand-driven and locally relevant content • Transform subsistence farming to viable businesses
    14. 14. Food for thought • How do we move from piloting and more piloting to mainstreaming ICT4D in development activities? • What is the future of m-applications? • When will we all embrace m-development? • Is public-private partnership really the panacea? • What are other viable business models to embed ICT4D in rural development projects?
    15. 15. M-development is not a mirage, it can become a reality! Roxanna Samii IFAD www.ifad.org Ifad-un.blogspost.com www.twitter.com/ifadnews r.samii@ifad.org www.twitter.com/rsamii rsamii.blogspot.com November 2010