Categories
Archive

Texting For Cheaper Marketplace Food With SokoText

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

An international group of graduate-social entrepreneurs from the London School of Economics (LSE) is pioneering a way to reduce food prices in Kenya using mobile phones.

Answering a call to action to address global food insecurity by the Hult Prize (hultprize.org), the team members looked at how they could make food cheaper for urban slum dwellers.

The Hult Prize, funded by Swedish educational entrepreneur and billionaire, Bertil Hult, is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from the world’s universities. The winner receives US $1 million and mentorship to make their idea become real.

SokoText (sokotext.com) (soko means market in Swahili) uses SMS (short message service) messages from mobile phones to empower vegetable sellers and kiosk owners in slums when it comes to bargaining the price for wholesale fresh produce. SokoText makes it possible for them to benefit from bulk prices by pooling their orders together every day. Usually vendors lack the funds to buy in bulk and have to make numerous time-consuming trips to the centre of Nairobi to buy stock.

SokoText reduces the price of fresh produce by 20 per cent for kiosk owners by buying the produce earlier in the supply chain. SokoText then delivers the food to a wholesale outlet at the entrance to the slum.

This approach makes available a wider range of produce and reduces the price. And best of all, it will knock down prices for the poorest people and enable them to buy more food and better quality food.

The team behind SokoText come from a variety of countries – Colombia, Canada, Kenya, Britain and Germany.

Hatched at the LSE, the enterprise prototyped its service in Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya for four weeks during the summer of 2013 with 27 users and began the second phase of testing in November 2013, working with a local NGO, Community Transformers (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Community-Transformers-kenya/119937408165671).

According to SokoText, slum dwellers spend on average 60 per cent of their daily budget on food.

Mobile phones can be transformative since they are now a common communications tool, even in slums.

On the SokoText website, respected blogger and commentator on technology in Africa, Erik Hersman (http://whiteafrican.com/about/), calls it “a fantastic low-tech approach that could really scale for decreasing the inefficiencies in urban slum markets.”

SokoText’s 21-year-old co-founder and chief executive, Suraj Gudka, explained the genesis of the project to news and technology in Africa website, 140Friday.com.

“From our research, the Mama Mboga (small-scale vegetable retailers) spend between 150 and 200 Kenyan shillings (US $1.70 and US $2.3) daily, about 25 per cent of her revenue, to buy her stock, and since they do not buy in bulk they [she] get their goods at a higher price.”

Getting the market traders to cooperate is very difficult, Gudka found, because competition is fierce and trust is low. SokoText sees itself as a solution to this situation. By encouraging bulk buying by way of the SMS text service, there is no need to build trust between the traders before the produce is purchased.

“To use our service, the interested retailers would be required to send us an SMS every evening detailing what they need,” said Gudka, “and then we will source the produce and they come pick it up from us the next morning. In this way they do not have to incur the additional costs of transporting their goods and it also saves them time.”

SokoText is being incubated at the Nailab (nailab.co.ke) in Nairobi, a startup accelerator that offers a three to 12 month entrepreneurship program, with a focus on growing innovative technology-driven ideas.

SokoText’s summer pilot test confirmed taking the orders can work but found getting the product to the market in time was difficult.

The next step will be to set up a presence in the Mathare slum.

“We will be selling about seven to 10 different kinds of produce, and from our calculations, according to our projections for how much the Mama Mbogas buy every day, we hope to get  40-50 customers within three months,” Gudka said.

Resources

1) SokoText: The website explains further how the service works. Website: sokotext.com

2) Hult Prize: The Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs. It encourages the world’s brightest business minds to compete in teams to solve the planet’s biggest challenges with innovative ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises. Annual Hult Prize winners can make their ideas reality with the help of US $1 million in seed funding. Website: hultprize.org

3) White African: Where Africa and Technology Collide! Website: http://whiteafrican.com/about/

4) Nailab: Nailab (Nairobi Incubation Lab) is a startup accelerator that offers an entrepreneurship program focusing on growing innovative technology driven ideas. This is done through providing business advice, technical training and support, professional mentoring and coaching, giving access to market and fostering strategic partnerships as well as linking them to investors. Website: nailab.co.ke

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: December 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hPNcAwAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+december+2013&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challenges-december-2013-issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

SokoText co-founder Sofia Zab (left). She oversees SokoText’s marketing strategy and manages SokoText’s technology products.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

Categories
Archive Blogroll

DIY Solution Charges Mobile Phones With Batteries

There are now more than 3.5 billion mobile phones in use around the world. In the past five years, their use and distribution has exploded across the global South, including in once hard-to-reach places in Africa. In fact, Africa is the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market. Over the past five years the continent’s mobile phone usage has increased at an annual rate of 65 percent – twice the rate of Asia.

The world’s poor are creative users of mobile phones, adapting these powerful tools to help with business, saving and spending money, and communicating with the outside world. As powerful as mobile phones are, they need electricity to stay functioning. And it is the struggle to find a steady supply of electricity that vexes many in the South.

There are wind-up mobile phone chargers, solar powered chargers (http://tinyurl.com/bg3wac), and mobile phone chargers you wave about. But most of these devices are, to someone who is poor and living in the South, expensive and hard to find. So what to do when it is not possible to buy a solar powered mobile phone charger?

Necessity is the mother of much invention. And one inventing mother is Mrs. Muyonjo, a housewife in a remote village of Ivukula in Iganga district, Eastern Uganda. She used to ride her bicycle for 20 miles in order to get to the nearest small town with an electricity charger for her mobile phone battery.

If that wasn’t a struggle enough, she was one day deceived by a vendor running a village battery charger.

“I will never give my telephone to the village battery chargers again,” she told the Women of Uganda Network (www.wougnet.org). “I gave them my new phone for charging, and they changed my battery and instead returned to me an old battery whose battery life can only last for one day.”

Ripped off by the vendor and unable to find the money or time to charge the battery daily, she decided to find an alternative charging solution.

“I looked at what was readily available to me and came up with my own charger. I devised this method to enable me to charge my battery every day. It works perfectly.”

A simple solution that shows there is no need to be a prisoner of technology, just its adaptor.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2009

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mLKXBgAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+february+2009&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsfebruary2009issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Categories
Archive Blogroll

Crowdsourcing Mobile Phones To Make The Poor Money

By David South, Southern Innovator Magazine

The proliferation of mobile phones across the global South, reaching even the poorest places on the planet, has given birth to whole new ways of making money. A phenomenon called ‘crowdsourcing’ – in which the power of individuals is harvested to achieve a goal – is now being used to create networks of people earning extra income.

One technology called Txteagle (http://txteagle.com/index.html), works like this: somebody performs small tasks with their mobile phone, such as translating a document into a local language, and in return receives credits or cash, so-called ‘micro-payments.’ By having many people perform these tasks in their spare time or down time at work, a large project can be completed and people can top-up their income. The secret is that the task must be able to be broken up into bite size chunks: the elephant must be eaten with a small fork.

For the poor, or people who are just getting by in a poor country, this can be a much-needed survival top-up in hard economic times. It is also an opportunity for people normally frozen out of formal employment opportunities or living in slum conditions.

Txteagle is being pioneered in Kenya using text messages or a low bandwidth, interactive protocol known as USSD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USSD) (usually used to check prepaid phone balances).

The rapid growth in take-up has made mobile phones the big success story of the 21st century. With such reach, finding new applications for mobile phones that are relevant to the world’s poor and to developing countries is a huge growth area. It is estimated that by 2015, the global mobile phone content market could be worth over US $1 trillion: relegating basic voice phone calls to just 10 percent of the way people use mobile phones.

The technological success story of mobile phones is impressive: China is home to the same number of mobile-phone users (surpassing 650 million in 2009) as the whole of Europe. According to India’s telecoms regulator (http://www.trai.gov.in/Default.asp), half of all urban dwellers now have mobile – or fixed – telephone subscriptions and the number is growing by eight million a month. In Tanzania, mobile phone use grew by 1,600 percent between 2002 and 2008.

Txteagle is the brainchild of Nathan Eagle of EPROM (Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles) (http://eprom.mit.edu/ ). He works on developing new mobile phone applications with computer science departments in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries including: the University of Nairobi (http://www.uonbi.ac.ke/) (Kenya), Makerere University (http://mak.ac.ug/makerere/) (Uganda), GSTIT (http://www.gstit.edu.et/) (Ethiopia), Ashesi University (http://www.ashesi.org/) (Ghana), and the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (http://www.kist.ac.rw/) (Rwanda).

Eagle has pioneered Txteagle in Nairobi, Kenya with students at the University of Nairobi. Drawing on his experience in East Africa, where he has lived since 2006, Eagle has a powerful message about mobile phones in the South. “This is their technology. The mobile phone is theirs,” he told a conference in March of this year. “It has had a far greater impact on their lives than it has on ours.”

Eagle says typical Txteagle users are “literate people in Nairobi who have significant idle time, like taxi drivers, security guards” or high school students. Like many Southern countries, Kenya has a plethora of languages: 62 in all. It can be laborious and costly to translate into all these languages. But by using crowd-sourcing on mobile phones, mobile phone company Nokia’s (www.nokia.com) phone menus have been translated into 15 local languages.

Already there are more people wanting to earn money this way than there are tasks to do. Eagle has had to cap payments at US $1.50 a day. The service needs to grow, and it is looking to offer people in the United States the opportunity to have easily broken-up tasks done in Kenya. Eagle believes his algorithms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm) ensure a 95-percent accuracy rate. One possible market is the US $15 billion medical transcription industry.

Kenya, a nation of 32 million, relies on its small business sector for most employment. In 2005, the government’s Economic Survey (www.cbs.go.ke/) found the small business sector created 437,900 jobs – mostly because of the boom in mobile phones. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), adding an additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people boosts a typical developing country’s GDP growth by 0.6 percent. The boost comes from the innovative use of mobile phone technology by local entrepreneurs.

Kenya is making significant headway on innovating with mobile phones. Already, 30 percent of Kenyans pay for their electricity with their mobile phones instead of waiting in line.

“We have transformed the majority of phones in East Africa into a platform that people can use to make money,” Eagle told the conference. “There are 15 million Africans ready to start working on their mobile phones.”

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: July 2009

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_bgpEldq9JsC&dq=development+challenges+july+2009&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsjuly2009issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Categories
Archive

Computing in Africa is Set to Get a Big Boost

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

The image of Africa as a technological laggard is set to be seriously challenged as a number of developments converge in 2007. Alongside the booming African mobile phone market – itself now getting global attention for innovation – the African computer scene will soon have both the software and hardware that acknowledge the continent’s unique needs while being affordable. Further challenging stereotypes, the continent’s burgeoning and dynamic open source software movement is the subject of a new film by a Danish filmmaker, and the African-made Ubuntu, Linux-based operating system now has a new user manual to help it attract new adherents.

African technological innovation rarely makes headlines in the West. But a Danish filmmaker is changing these perceptions with his film showing the dynamism and enthusiasm behind the open source software movement in Africa. The yet-untitled film, directed by David Madie, is from Eighty Days Productions and is due for release in the spring of 2007. It follows a young computer entrepreneur, Wire Lunghabo James, from Uganda’s Linux Solutions in Africa, who has been instrumental in building the Web’s presence in the country and in East Africa.

“This film will show the characters fighting for what they believe in. This happens to be Open Source, which I think is an important agenda,” director Madie told Tactical Technology Collective ( www.tacticaltech.org), a website “demystifying technology for non-profits.”

Unlike off-the-shelf software, open source software has many advantages. It is free, and no licence fee is required, so as many copies as necessary can be made. It is fully customisable, so local languages and cultural conditions can be taken into consideration. It is a universal language (the most popular is Linux) and thus it is easier to understand how a specific application works. For developing countries, it has the advantage of empowering local programmers and dymistifying computer programming, removing it from the domain of private companies and large government agencies. In 2005 the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) urged African countries to embrace open source software to encourage the growth of indigenous software development.

“I think he (James) is also a role model in the sense that he combines doing a business, with doing social work. To him these things are not opposites: these are things that can perfectly work well together. You can do business in a social manner,” Madie said.

The Ubuntu software programme is a complete, free operating system that emphasizes community, support, and ease of use while refusing to compromise on speed, power, and flexibility. Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning humanity to others, and its software version is described as Linux for human beings – designed for everyone from computer novices to experts. Ubuntu is the most in-demand Linux system in Africa, and the official guide is aimed at NGOs, home users or small businesses.

One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC)

In another development, the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) has announced the release for general sale of its durable bright green and yellow laptops ready loaded with Linux-based operating systems. Customers in wealthy countries will have to buy two laptops, with the second going to a developing country. Five million will be delivered to the developing world over the summer of 2007. The eventual aim is to sell the machine to developing countries for US $100, but the current cost of the machine is about US $150. The OLPC laptop’s software has been designed to work specifically in an educational context. It has built-in wireless networking and video conferencing so that groups of children can work together. The OLPC project is working with the search engine Google, who will act as “the glue to bind all these kids together”. Google will also help the children publish their work on the internet.

The One Laptop Per Child project (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Home) has struck its first deal with Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame to provide every school pupil with a laptop computer within the next five years. The laptops and all the support costs will be covered by OLPC.

Resources 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.