Categories
Archive

2009: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

2009

ISSN 2227-3905

December

Southern Art Hubs Grab Attention for Creative EconomyDevelopment Challenges: Regeneration – of poor neighbourhoods, districts, even whole countries after a conflict – is both a challenge and a key to transforming lives. One approach that has a track record is turning to artists and creative people to re-imagine a neighbourhood or country’s culture, and restore pride and vitality to places beaten down by life’s hardships.

Afropolitan: African Fashion Scene Bursting with EnergyDevelopment Challenges: In the face of Congo’s civil strife, a group of very fashionable gentlemen bring colour and style to the country while also pioneering a way to make money and improve standards of dress in the country. Members of “La sape,” or La Societe des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Société_des_ambianceurs_et_des_personnes_élégantes) — the society of tastemakers and elegant people — wear designer fashions either bought in Europe, or handmade in Congo.

Brewing Prosperity Creates Good Jobs Development Challenges: In the Democratic Republic of Congo – home to the world’s largest United Nations peacekeeping mission and decades of bloody civil war – a brewery has not only survived, it has thrived to become a popular brand throughout central Africa. By being a success, the Brasimba brewery has brought prosperity and high-quality jobs to Congo’s second largest city, Lubumbashi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lubumbashi), and proven that a modern business can do well there despite the obstacles.

Digital Mapping to put Slums on the Map Development Challenges: People are now turning to the growing penetration of digital technologies into slums and poor areas to find solutions. With mobile phones available across much of the global South, and plans underway to expand access to broadband internet even in poorly served Africa, it is becoming possible to develop a digital picture of a slum area and map its needs and population.

November

Innovation Villages Tackling MDGs Development Challenges: The global economic crisis that began to roll across the world in September 2008 is threatening gains made against poverty and hunger all over the South. As Kevin Watkins from UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report told the Financial Times, “With the slowdown in growth in 2009, we estimate that the average income of the 391 million Africans living on less than US $1.25 a day will take a 20 percent hit.”

New Appetite for Nutritious Traditional VegetablesDevelopment Challenges: Throughout the history of farming, around 7,000 species of plants have been domesticated. Yet everyday diets only draw on 30 percent of these plants and even this number has been going down as more people consume mass-market foods (FAO).

African Countries Re-branding for New Economic RoleDevelopment Challenges: Africa’s diverse countries have been subject to years of negative stories in the media. The effect on global audiences has left many to cast the whole continent in a bad light and to know little about the individual countries and cultures. This has damaged business confidence over the years. Just like products and people, nations need to have a strong and positive brand to do well in the global economy.

Tiny Homes to Meet Global Housing Crisis Development Challenges: More than 1 billion people around the world lack decent shelter. Of these, the majority live in urban areas, usually in slums and informal settlements (UN-HABITAT). The world’s megacities – like Mumbai, India, where more than 22 million live in the metropolitan region – have to find a way to provide housing that is both affordable and does the minimum possible amount of harm to the environment.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, November 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/November-2009.268.0.html

October

Ending Gang Violence While Cleaning the Streets in HaitiDevelopment Challenges: The Caribbean nation of Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line (CIA World Factbook). The country had been enjoying some positive economic growth since 2005 after decades of economic and political turmoil.

Growing a Southern Brand to Global Success: The Olam Story Development Challenges: Most people haven’t heard of Olam International, but they know the brands they work for and they more than likely eat their produce. The story of Olam (www.olamonline.com) – a global food supply company in ‘agri-products’ that got its start in Nigeria – shows how a Southern brand can grow and go global, and overcome the difficulties of cross-border trade.

September

Making the World a Better Place for Southern ProjectsDevelopment Challenges: An exciting new initiative based in Germany, but already featuring hundreds of projects from across the South, is using the power of the internet to directly connect projects and donors.

Bamboo Becomes Transport Option for the SouthDevelopment Challenges: The sturdy bamboo plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo) is enjoying a revival around the world as a building material. A strong, fast-growing and highly renewable woody plant, it is becoming increasingly popular as people seek out less environmentally wasteful alternatives to steel and other materials.

Kenyan Mobile Phone Innovations Development Challenges: A couple of enterprising Kenyan engineering students are showing how mobile phones are an inventor’s dream. Their two inventions – one a way to re-charge phones while bicycling, the other an aid for catching fish – show the potential for adapting this technology to the needs of the poor.

Info Ladies and Question Boxes: Reaching Out to the PoorDevelopment Challenges: Quick access to accurate and useful information is crucial for development. With the remarkable spread of information around the world via the Internet – one of the greatest achievements of the 21st century – more than 1.5 billion people now use the Web to boost their incomes and opportunities (Internet World Stats).

Original Development Challenges newsletter, September 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/September-2009.262.0.html

August

Avoiding Wasting Food and Human Potential with ICTsDevelopment Challenges: Creative use of information technology in the South is helping to address two very different kinds of waste – of food and of human and community potential.

Toilet Malls Make Going Better Development Challenges: Across the global South, clever entrepreneurs are transforming services that were bare-bones, grim and out-of-date into modern facilities packed with features that help to pay for their operation. In Kenya, an entrepreneur has used this approach to transform the poor quality of public toilets.

African Ingenuity Attracting Interest Development Challenges: At this August’s Maker Faire Africa gathering (http://makerfaireafrica.com/) in Accra, Ghana, African pioneers in grassroots innovation offered inspiring inventions.

July

Crowdsourcing Mobile Phones to Make the Poor MoneyDevelopment Challenges 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.

Tourist Passion for Quirky Holidays Helps SouthDevelopment Challenges:Conventional thinking holds that any country with a poor or non-existent reputation in the international media will not attract tourists. But this conventional thinking is wrong: The hottest tourist trend for 2009 is directly benefiting the South’s more out-of-the-way and under-appreciated countries. So says a travel expert who specializes in overlooked travel destinations.

Protecting Threatened Fruits and Nuts in Central AsiaDevelopment Challenges: Between 94,000 and 144,000 plant species — a quarter to a half of the world’s total — could die out in the coming years, according to an estimate by Scientific American (2002). Among them are vital food crops, threatened by a world in which climate change is causing more weather turbulence and diseases and viruses can spread rapidly and destroy crops.

African Theatre Becomes European Success Development Challenges: In Britain, the country that gave the world the plays of William Shakespeare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare), a new creative force has taken stages by storm: African theatre. And it is proving how economically rewarding Southern culture can be.

Southern Drink Challenges Corporate DominanceDevelopment ChallengesAcross the global South, its thirsty people have long been a target market for Northern drinks companies. The ubiquity of the American soft drink Coca Cola, or even its rival Pepsi Cola, is testimony to that. Even the most remote village on the impoverished island of Haiti can offer an ice-cold Coke.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, July 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/July-2009.261.0.html

June

Kenyan Eco-Village Being Built by Slum-DwellersDevelopment Challenges: A Kenyan eco-village is helping slum dwellers to start new lives and increase their wealth. The community, Kaputei, is being built by former slum residents – some of whom used to beg to survive – and is providing new homes with electricity, running water and services like schools and parks. By building their own homes, with the help of affordable mortgage loans, the residents are able to make a big upgrade to their quality of life while acquiring real wealth.

Taxis Promote African Music Beats Development Challenges: South Africa’s township music is pounding its way into the global music charts. How has music made in the impoverished townships that are a hangover from decades of apartheid – the country’s former racial separation laws, which trapped millions of black South Africans in disenfranchisement and poverty – travelled around the world? By hitching a ride with the country’s ubiquitous taxi drivers.

Successful Fuel-Efficient Cookers Show the WayDevelopment Challenges: Kenyan entrepreneur has cooked up a fuel-efficient stove and oven that uses less of a precious national resource: wood from trees. Most African households using fuel-burning stoves either cannot afford clean-burning fuels like natural gas or electric stoves, or do not have access to them. They are stuck having to burn wood or other materials like animal dung – collectively called biomass – on open fires.

A New Mobile Phone Aimed at the Poor Development Challenges: A low-cost Venezuelan mobile phone aimed at the South’s poor is proving that South-South technological cooperation works. Packed with features and costing no more than US $15 – making it one of the cheapest mobile handsets in the world – the phone is aimed at the fast-growing mobile market across the global South.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, June 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/June-2009.260.0.html

May

African Online Supermarket Set to Boost TradeDevelopment Challenges: African Online Supermarket Set to Boost Trade Online retailing and marketing strategies are revolutionizing how people around the world buy products and services – but so far they have not benefited most of Africa’s small businesses and traders. On a continent where trading for survival is the norm, very few people are reaping the benefits of selling on the Internet.

Rebuilding After Chinese Earthquake: Beautiful Bamboo Homes Development Challenges: It has been a year since the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China that killed more than 70,000 people. Getting Sichuan back to normal is critical for not only the province’s people, but for all of China. Sichuan is China’s rice bowl, growing more food than any other province. But despite the abundance of food, Sichuan remains poor and has seen its working age population move away for work. If it is to have a viable future then its communities need to get back to normal as fast as possible – and its farming economy back to full production.

SOS Shops Keep Food Affordable for Poor, UnemployedDevelopment Challenges: As the global downturn bears down on country after country, governments around the world are introducing austerity measures to try to keep their economies going. Many countries are now facing financial crisis and the need for loans and support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Formerly comfortable people are going from regular employment to unemployment or erratic employment, and growing numbers of people are finding it hard even to afford basics such as food.

Cleaner Stoves To Reduce Global Warming Development Challenges: The use of polluting fuel-burning stoves by half the world’s population – including 80 percent of rural households – is a documented contributor to a host of health problems. Poor households not only have to contend with the ill health effects of dirty water and poor sanitation, the fumes from burning dung, wood, coal or crop leftovers lead to the deaths of more than 1.6 million people a year from breathing toxic indoor air (WHO).

Original Development Challenges newsletter, May 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/May-2009.256.0.html

April

Solar Powered Village Kick-Starts Development GoalsDevelopment Challenges: More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved. But in a first for India, a village is now entirely powered by solar energy, kick-starting its development and reversing the decline common to many villages.

Rainforest Gum Gets Global Market Development Challenges: Mexico is home to the second largest rainforest in the Americas after the Amazon jungle. But the country’s forests face serious threats from logging, cattle ranching and agriculture. As much as 80 percent of Mexico’s original forests have already been lost. A group of Mexican farmers is now using sophisticated product marketing to preserve their income, and the 1.3 million hectares of rainforest as well.

Disabled Congolese Musicians Become World HitDevelopment Challenges: A group of Congolese musicians is using music to overcome obstacles – both economic and social – that come with being disabled in a poor country. Called Staff Benda Bilili, they are on course to be a global sensation and are looking forward to their first European tour. A remarkable achievement for anyone from a war-torn country, let alone for musicians who live as paraplegics in the slums of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinshasa).

Camel Ice Cream Delivering Desert Dessert Development Challenges: The global food crisis is forcing people around the world to think differently about how food is produced and what new products can boost the incomes of farmers. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand – and right now there are 862 million people worldwide who are undernourished (FAO). The world’s over 19.4 million camels (FAO, 2003) are now being tapped for their highly nutritious, healing and tasty milk.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, April 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/April-2009.257.0.html

March

Finding Fortune in Traditional Medicine Development Challenges:Traditional medicines and treatments could help provide the next wave of affordable drugs and medicines for the world. But a phenomenon known as ‘bio-prospecting’ – in which global companies grab a stake in these once-free medicines – has been placing traditional medicines out of reach of Southern entrepreneurs.

Accessing Global Markets Via Design SolutionsDevelopment Challenges:The power of design to improve products and the way they are manufactured is increasingly being seen as a critical component of successful economic development.

Berber Hip Hop Helps Re-ignite Culture and EconomyDevelopment Challenges: Music is being used to revive the ancient language of the original North African desert dwellers, the Berbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people). And in the process, it is spawning a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and generating income.

Cashing in on Music in Brazil Development Challenges:Brazilian musicians have found a way to prosper and exploit the realities of music distribution in the modern age. The biggest problem for most artists – both beginners and those who are more established – is how to earn an income from their work. In the digital age, it is next to impossible to stop people freely copying your work and passing it on.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, March 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/March-2009.233.0.html

February

Cuba’s Hurricane Recovery Solution Development Challenges: The frequency of extreme weather in the past decade has been attributed to global warming (http://tinyurl.com/5peel). Many scientists believe the future will bring even more turbulent weather events and disasters. The devastation and hardship brought by natural disasters can eradicate development gains, and destroy livelihoods and health. It is critical countries help people to get back to their normal lives as fast as possible.

Afghanistan’s Juicy Solution to Drug Trade Development Challenges:Afghanistan is the world’s largest source of the illegal drugs opium and heroin (International Narcotics Control Board), both of which are derived from the bright-red flower, the poppy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poppy).The country produced 8,200 tons of heroin in 2007, up 34 percent from the previous year.The negative consequences of the flourishing drug trade are numerous: it is destabilizing Afghanistan’s neighbours and undermining political and legal institutions, addiction rates are soaring, and addicts are spreading HIV/AIDS.

DIY Solution Charges Mobile Phones with BatteriesDevelopment Challenges: 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.

African Bus to Tackle African Roads Development Challenges: Roads in many parts of Africa are rough at best, and hostile to vehicles designed with smooth, flat highways in mind. Even in countries like South Africa, where modern highways are common, a quick turn off the smooth highway to visit many communities will mean tackling makeshift dirt roads. In these conditions, buses imported from Western Europe are at a disadvantage when they hit the bone-jarring reality of potholed roads.

January

Debt-free Homes For the Poor Development Challenges:As the population around the world’s cities grows, and slums grow larger and more prevalent, the urgent need for affordable and decent housing becomes more pressing. The world’s megacities – like Buenos Aires, Argentina, where more than 13 million live in the metropolitan region – have to find a way to provide housing that is both cheap and does the minimum possible amount of harm to the environment.

Rickshaw Drivers Prosper with New ServicesDevelopment Challenges:The rickshaw is the world’s oldest form of wheeled transportation and forms a significant part of India’s transport infrastructure. In large cities across Asia, 1 million three-wheeled auto-rickshaws form an important means of daily transportation and a vital source of income for their drivers. There are 8 million cycle rickshaws on the streets of India, the government says. They perform many tasks: as taxis, as couriers, as goods movers. And the Indian government promotes cycle rickshaws as a non-polluting alternative.

Venezuela’s Currencies Promote Cooperation Not Competition Development Challenges: The global economic crisis has spread around the world and is bringing many problems in its wake. As global currency markets gyrate wildly, and people find they can go from having wealth to being poor almost overnight, the question is being asked: “is there another way?”

Kenyan Bank Helps the Poor and Gets Rich Development Challenges: Good quality banking services are a basic building block to rising incomes. Yet the poor across the South are often overlooked and denied access to savings accounts and loans. Many low-income people are openly discriminated against as ‘bad risks’ by banks, and denied the sort of banking services middle and higher income people take for granted. Yet it is a myth that the poor do not have money or do not wish to save and invest for their future or for business.

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

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

© David South Consulting 2020

Categories
Blogroll

Happy New Year! 2021

Message coming soon

Happy New Year! 2014

Happy New Year! 2012

Happy New Year! 2011

Happy New Year! 2010

Happy New Year! 2009

Categories
Archive Blogroll

Kenya Reaches Mobile Phone Banking Landmark

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

Financial transactions and banking with mobile phones have been a Kenyan success story.

Now, one service, M-Shwari, has reached a significant milestone in the history of m-banking (mobile phone banking): it was able to record a billion Kenyan shillings (US $11,926,100) in savings deposits in a month after its launch in November 2012 and reached deposits of Kenyan shillings 2.8 billion (US $33 million) by February of 2013. This outstripped the Kenyan shillings 378 million (US $4 million) in loans lent by the service, reports Daily Nation.

M-Shwari is a mobile phone banking product that allows people to save and borrow money by phone and earn some interest too. The service offers small emergency loans to customers, offering a financial lifeline to people who would have been frozen out of financial services in the past.

There is no need to have any contact with a bank or bother with paperwork. And loans are instant because they are small.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore told the Daily Nation “Trends show that it has become more of a savings service than a lending service. This is what we intended since the beginning.”

As of February 1.6 million customers had used the service.

On top of this success, the pioneering M-PESA (http://www.safaricom.co.ke/personal/m-pesa/m-pesa-services-tariffs/relax-you-have-got-m-pesa) mobile phone banking platform developed in Kenya by Safaricom is set to roll out across India and help bring banking services to the country’s 700 million “unbanked.”

Both these developments are solid proof that innovation aimed at drawing in the poor into the mainstream economy not only works, it is profitable and exportable.

M-Shwari (http://www.safaricom.co.ke/personal/m-pesa/m-shwari/m-shwari-faqs) works like this: a customer can save as little as one Kenyan shilling to receive an interest rate of up to 5 per cent. If they want a loan, then they can borrow from 100 Kenyan shillings (US $1.19) to a maximum of 20,000 Kenyan shillings (US $238) for a processing fee of 7.5 per cent which will need to be paid back after 30 days.

By offering greater access to loans, M-Shwari s increasing competition in the banking sector and giving customers a choice.

It joins an ongoing revolution in access to credit for the poor. Powerful mobile phones enable individual depositors and businesspeople to organize their financial affairs and business needs on the phone. This is a revolutionary development in many places where people previously had to contend with poor access to financial services – or no access at all.

M-Shwari and products like it allow people to borrow, save and conduct transactions with family, friends, business partners and customers over their mobile phones.

M-Shwari is a collaboration between Kenyan telecoms company Safaricom and the Commercial Bank of Africa. It is being hailed as an example of how banks and telecommunications companies can cooperate to offer innovative financial products to the country.

For the unbanked in India, the initiative between Vodafone India (https://www.vodafone.in/pages/index.aspx) and ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank, has started to roll out the Kenyan M-PESA mobile phone banking platform in India as of April 2013. They are hoping to open up access to banking to 700 million Indians who currently do not have bank accounts or access to banking facilities. The rollout starts in the country’s eastern regions of Kolkata and West Bengal (CNN).

It looks like access to banking services for the poor in the global South will soon undergo radical change with these large-scale initiatives.

Resources

1) Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology: Southern Innovator’s first issue broke new ground in its portrayal of a global South awash in innovators transforming how people use information technology and mobile phones. Website:http://www.scribd.com/doc/95410448/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1-Mobile-Phones-and-Information-Technology

2) iHub Nairobi: Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. Website: ihub.co.ke/

3) Hubs in Africa: A crowdsourced map of the growing number of African information technology hubs. Website:https://africahubs.crowdmap.com/main

4) Appfrica: Founded in 2008 in Kampala, Uganda, Appfrica is an innovative global consultancy specializing in market research studies, custom technology solutions and investment in emerging markets. Website:http://appfrica.com/

Southern Innovator logo

London Edit

31 July 2013

Creative Commons License

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

David South Consulting first launched in Toronto, Canada in 1991. In 2010 it had a brand re-launch, with a new logo and website developed in Reykjavik, Iceland using 100% renewable energy. 

Categories
Archive Blogroll

Mobile Phones: Engineering South’s Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

Technology is fuelling unprecedented growth in productivity in Asia, with sub-Saharan Africa languishing behind (International Labour Organization). But the growth in mobile phones could help close this gap, as home-grown entrepreneurs are stepping up to exploit this new opportunity.

Mobile phone applications are proving a boon to small businesses and entrepreneurs. They are now putting power in the hands of individuals, making it easier to invent new ways of doing things, transfer money, organise business accounts, provide services, sell things, and keep in touch and up-to-date.

Technology has been the common factor in increases in productivity around the world, and with the rapid rise in mobile phone use, especially in Africa, it looks as if this handy device augers in the next wave of innovation.

And technology and mobile phones in particular, are creating a whole new route to wealth: “The switch.. frees people from geography,” Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis told The Christian Science Monitor. “Singapore can be as rich as Canada, even though Singapore has no land.”

Technology is seen to be opening a new phase in economic competition in services, embracing a wide range of fields, from banking to tourism to healthcare. And it is entrepreneurs who will be at the forefront of making this happen. The majority (59 per cent) of the world’s 2.4 billion mobile phone users live in developing countries (MIT) – making it the first telecommunications technology in history to have more users there than in the developed world. The number of African mobile phone users passed 200 million at the beginning of this year (www.ovum.com), making it the fastest growing mobile phone market. It has increased at an annual rate of 65 per cent – twice the global average (MIT Media Laboratory).

In Kenya in 2005, the government’s Economic Survey found the small business sector, which employs the majority of workers in the nation of 32 million people, created 437,900 jobs – mostly down to 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 per cent. The boost comes from the innovative use of mobile phone technology by local entrepreneurs.

At the University of Nairobi, the SMS Boot Camp (SMS is the text messaging system on mobile phones) is breeding the next generation of African technology entrepreneurs. Working in partnership with MIT, the student entrepreneurs are working on an impressive list of projects, which can be found online at eprom.mit.edu. The projects are varied, and include perfecting prototype ways to collect medical data on mobiles, accurately tracking phone user’s profiles (habits, friend networks etc.), improving communication between Kenyan hospitals and the centralised blood banks in the country, and quick ways to install applications on all of Kenya’s mobile phone SIM cards.

One graduate, Mohammed Temam Ali in Addis Ababa, is now working on a project for the Ethiopian Telecommunications Company. Another is working for Kenyan mobile phone download service, Cellulant.

Nathan Eagle, a visiting lecturer at the University of Nairobi, has been working with the students on the projects: “Phones are starting to be used as a surrogate for all sorts of technology we take for granted in the West. Credit cards, TVs, radios, computers, etc… In the small Kenyan village where I’m writing this email, I can pay for the taxi ride home with my mobile — we’re even scheduled to be getting a Wimax network (wireless internet) here next year. Talk about leapfrog…”

“I’m also advising a small group of newly graduated Rwandan hackers who are building an SMS-based payment system for electricity.”

But Eagle says the obstacles can still be huge: “Government corruption and red-tape. SMS is illegal in Ethiopia… it is pretty frustrating when you go over to teach an ‘sms bootcamp’ class.”

In India, where there are 185 million mobile phone subscribers, computer science doctoral student and founder of Ekgaon Technologies, Tapan Parikh, has founded a business specifically targeting developing mobile phone-based information systems for small businesses in the developing world. Working in rural India, the applications are designed to make it easier for business owners to manage their own operations in an efficient and transparent way, and also to build strong connections both with established financial institutions and their customers. By making it easier to access finance, and also to get a better price, these businesses will stand a better chance of flourishing, it is believed.

One of his applications is called Cam (named after the phone’s camera). It is a toolkit that makes it simple to use phones to capture images and scan documents, enter and process data, and run interactive audio and video.

Parikh is also using these applications to improve micro-finance. Targeting Indian self-help groups (15 to 20 people who pool their capital together, usually women), the application (called SHG MIS – self-help group management and information system) uses the phone’s camera to enter data, uploading it to online databases, and a package of Web-based software for managing data and reporting to the institution that lent the money.

“In these groups, things are often done in a somewhat ad hoc manner, using informal documentation,” Parikh says, “which can lead to instability and impermanence and contribute to the kinds of tensions that lead small groups to fall apart.” The software gives groups a more systematic method of documenting decisions, tracking financial performance over time, and collecting information on loan effectiveness. Parikh has developed his applications around the needs and behaviour of the users.

This next wave of entrepreneurs will be joining a growing list of made-in-the-South mobile phone innovators like ARYTYG-Cash and Smart Money in the Philippines; WIZZITand MTN Mobile Money in South Africa; M-Pesa in Kenya; Celpay in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Resources

  • Key Indicators of the Labour Market, 2007: www.ilo.org
  • Commission for Africa report on mobile phones and development: www.commissionforafrica.org
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Nairobi are training the next generation of mobile phone entrepreneurs with their “SMS Boot Camp”, focused on developing applications for African phone users: eprom.mit.edu.
  • Entrepreneurs can track the growth of the mobile phones market here: www.wirelessintelligence.com
Creative Commons License

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