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Women Mastering Trade Rules

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Market trading is a vital lifeline for most people in the South. Plenty of delights usually await people in the market, where live animals, herbs and spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and life’s necessities compete for customers’ money. The formal and informal food sector plays a crucial role in empowering women and providing food to the poor. Women are often those mostly responsible for selling fresh products and street food, and running small catering operations. By being a vendor and getting food at a lower cost, they are able to contribute to their families’ food security.

Trading and selling in the marketplace can be one of the best options for poor women. By trading, women gain economic independence, learn vital business skills and enjoy the social benefits of interacting with others. But the highly individualistic nature of market trading has its downside: traders must do everything themselves and a day not spent at market is a day’s income lost. They also can only buy in small quantities, and usually pay a higher price. Or don’t know what the competitive price is, so are in a weaker bargaining position with wholesalers.

Making market trading more efficient has huge advantages, the primary one being more money for the trader.

Women market traders in Nigeria are improving their efficiency and income with mobile phones. Rural women market traders in the Obiaruku market are using mobile phones to call their suppliers, access information like commodity prices, and contact customers. A survey of the traders found 95 per cent thought mobile phones had a big impact on their business. This has included fewer trips to suppliers, a quicker way to get help when they have been robbed, and opportunities to top-up incomes by selling airtime, handsets or mobile phone accessories.

In Nigeria, mobile phone use has shot up at a rate of 25 per cent a year. A recent study found that out of a population of 140 million, 12.1 million now have mobile phones and 64 million use mobile phones through street-side phone centres. Phones are also helping women market traders to keep tabs on price fluctuations – giving them an advantage when bargaining with crafty – mostly male – suppliers. A weak bargaining position is a common problem: In Ghana, for example, product producers are forced to sell through “market queens” who take advantage of the lack of price transparency and do not always pay producers fairly (De Lardemelle, 1995).

In the Madurai region in southern India, women market traders are using a system called CAM. It allows them to record all their business transactions. CAM uses a Nokia 6600 mobile phone to record daily transactions. This includes small loans, buying livestock, or operating tiny retail businesses. The phone’s camera takes pictures of bookkeeping forms to identify and track all documents. The phone then asks the user to input numbers to the data fields. At the last key, the data is sent via text message to a central server. According to Tapan Parikh, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Information in the United States, the most successful technological solutions work because they include village leaders, customers, NGOs, and others in the design process. “This is the only way to ensure long-term sustainability and benefit,” he said.

In Soweto, South Africa a simple solution to a chronic problem for women market traders has emerged. After seeing hundreds and sometimes thousands of women selling their goods in the marketplace, it became clear they all had one thing in common: they closed on Mondays. They did this because they needed to go to the wholesaler to buy their goods. And they mostly did this by piling into taxis to get there. It hurt the profitability of their businesses in many ways: there was the cost of the taxi, the fact they could only buy small amounts to squeeze in the taxi, a day’s business was lost, and the lack of a discounted, bulk price.

But the solution to this problem is a bright one: the women place a bulk, wholesale order with a go-between who works with a computer out of a former shipping container. He logs the orders into his computer and sends one big order. The wholesaler is happy with the big order, and delivers it and gives him a 15 per cent discount. This is his profit. The women pay the same price as before, but do not have to pay for the taxi and the goods are delivered directly to them. On top of this, the women can stay open on Monday and make more money!

Published: May 2008

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Web 2.0 to the Rescue! Using Web and Text to Beat Shortages in Africa

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The beep-beep of a received text on a mobile phone is now becoming a much-needed lifeline to Africans. Zimbabweans, who continue to struggle every day with inflation that has shot to 3,731 percent (Zimbabwe Central Statistical Office), have usd African ingenuity and 21st century technology to survive another day.

New website services have become a literal lifeline for millions suffering from economic and social hardships. At least four new web-based services have stepped in to link expatriate Zimbabweans working outside the country with their relatives back home. All share a common service: people can log into the websites and shop and select what they like to purchase or transfer to their relativs. Once a purchase has been made, a message is sent by mobile phone text to Zimbabwe, either transferring money credits or credits for fuel, food or medical services.

Mukuru.com is the most elaborate and ambitious of the services, and is expanding across Africa (currently in Zimbabwe and South Africa, it is expanding to Kenya, Malawi and Zambia). Started in 2006, it now boasts 8,000 customers and is averaging 1,200 orders per month, ranging from money transfers to fuel and digital satellite television subscriptions. A voucher number sent by mobile phone also allows the recipient to swap a PIN (personal identification) number for coupons redeemable at certain garages.

One of the great advantages of this new technology is its ability to give real-time updates and tracking throughout the transaction. Senders are informed about every stage of the transaction, right up until the gas is gushing into the car’s tank.

“Basically anybody who is able to work will do their best to support family back home,” said Mukuru’s UK-based Nix Davies. “Mukuru’s birth is the result of our inability to sit back and watch, as well as the desperate need to help those back home. The power of an instant SMS being able to provide value to its recipient is inspiring.

“Launching Mukuru.com has not been without its hurdles,” continues Davies. “Promoting a brand with one foot in the first world and having to deal with third world inconsistencies is always challenging.” Mukuru also has plans to expand into travel, freight, mail (letters are printed out and sent within Zimbabwe), and music to help local musicians.

Over at another website, Zimbuyer.com, expatriate Zimbabweans can buy groceries for their relatives at home and make sure that the money is not spent on the wrong thing.
“They’re a lot of people who left Zimbabwe and, for example, have left their children over there,” a spokesman told the BBC’s website. “But sometimes the money they have sent home for the care of the children is diverted into other things. With our service, people buy the stuff – and we deliver them to the recipients so they know what they’re buying.”

Zimbuyer’s website is similar to food shopping websites in developed countries. Prices are listed in British pounds, but the food items are Zimbabwean staples like sadza maize, Cashel Valley Baked Beans and Ingrame Camphor Cream – all delivered to people living in Harare, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo.Zimbuyer’s most popular products are cooking oil and sugar, while “power generators are proving popular because the electricity always goes off nearly every day.”

Another service is Zimland.com, which has a network of 52 supermarkets nationwide. As it starkly boasts on its website, it gives Zimbabweans abroad “a quick and efficient way of ensuring their families do not starve in Zimbabwe.”

The Zimland Superstore offers a variety of hampers of food and essentials for families, from the Madirativhange to the Mafidhlongo to the Hotch Potch Delux, and boys and girls ‘Back to School’ hampers.

Yet another service has taken on the problem of paying for medical and health services. Beepee Medical Services allows Zimbabweans to pay for doctors’ appointments, prescription drugs and surgery for relatives.

Launched in September 2006 by Dr Brighton Chireka and his wife Prisca, a nurse, the business is small but growing.

“Mostly we’re running it as a service to help people,” said Dr Chireka, adding he gets about two consultation bookings a day (US $30 an appointment). “It should be able to pay for itself… We’ve employed people who are working full-time in Zimbabwe. This side (the UK), it’s on a part-time basis to answer the calls.”

Please visit the following link for more information:

An up-to-date report from The Economist magazine on the country situation in Zimbabwe: www.economist.com

Published: November 2008

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E-Books

MOST READ! Southern Innovator Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1

Southern Innovator Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship: http://www.scribd.com/doc/86451057/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-2

Southern Innovator Issue 3: Agribusiness and Food Security: http://www.scribd.com/doc/105746025/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-3

Southern Innovator Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/128283953/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-4

NEW! Southern Innovator Issue 5: Waste and Recycling: http://www.scribd.com/doc/207579744/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-5-Waste-and-Recycling

AWARD-WINNING! GOSH e-Health Project Launch Brochure and Screen Grabs: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20857167/GOSH-e-Health-Project-Launch-Brochure-and-Screen-Grabs

Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia: http://www.scribd.com/doc/28633063/Environmental-Public-Awareness-Handbook-Case-Studies-and-Lessons-Learned-in-Mongolia-Part-One

In their own words: Selected writings by journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999: http://www.scribd.com/doc/24832935/In-their-own-words-Selected-writings-by-journalists-on-Mongolia-1997-1999

Mongolian Rock and Pop Book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23917535/Mongolian-Rock-and-Pop-Book

Mongolian Green Book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20889227/Mongolian-Green-Book

Mongolia Update 1998 Book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20864541/Mongolia-Update-1998-Book

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20793173/Human-Development-Report-Mongolia-1997

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

© David South Consulting 2022

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Indian Mobile Phone Application Innovators Empower Citizens

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

With mobile phones becoming ubiquitous across the global South, the opportunity to make money – and possible fortunes – by providing ‘apps’ for these devices is now a reality.

Apps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_software) – applications which allow users of new mobile phones to do everything from running a business to banking to navigating chaotic cities – have quickly become a very creative space and a dynamic market for innovators and entrepreneurs. Because they are pieces of software and are relatively inexpensive to create, requiring only time and hard work, an individual working out of their home can develop an app, introduce it to the online marketplace and see if it will succeed.

The only limit is the imagination.

They are also a great way to solve people’s problems and possibly make some money in the process. As economies and cities grow across the South, many everyday difficulties can be tackled with these apps.

Apps are revolutionary because they solve the problem of how to view websites on mobile phones and smartphones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone). Apps are designed for a small screen and have simple functionality and design. They often can function without any constant connection to the Internet, updating themselves sporadically when the phone can connect with phone networks or the Internet. They are also either free or inexpensive, using micro-payments to make a profit. The essence of the micro-payment business model is to charge a small amount and turn this into a large amount by having large numbers of people download the app. It is a successful business formula that has made many vast fortunes throughout the age of the mass consumer market, which began in the late 19th century.

Bart Decrem, co-founder of Tapulous, a maker of apps for the iPhone (http://tapulous.com), told The Economist: “Apps are nuggets of magic.”

Apps are sold in online stores run by companies like Apple (http://itunes.apple.com/us/genre/ios/id36?mt=8), Google, Sweden’s GetJar (http://www.getjar.com), and South Korea’s SK Telecom. Apple’s store has over 425,000 apps and Google’s Android Market has more than 250,000. Other stores include Mobihand, PocketGear, Mobango, Handango, Blackberry App World and Handster (http://www.handster.com).

Research firm Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/technology/home.jsp) estimated that 18 billion apps have been downloaded since Apple opened its first app store in 2008. Remarkably, it forecasts this number could rise to 49 billion by 2013. The most popular topics include games, weather forecasts, social networks, maps, music and news.

The dynamic documented so far for apps seems to follow the way music charts work. A few apps, out of the many on offer, become big sellers and popular favourites, getting the most users. Partly this reflects the difficulty of quickly searching through all the apps available in the world to find the right one, a process that favours well-marketed apps.

The recent TechSparks 2011 App4India (http://www.facebook.com/techspark) contest showcased the creative thinking about apps now happening in India.

One Indian success story is the 1000Lookz (http://www.vdime.com/pro1.htm) app, developed by Vasan Sowriraj (http://www.vdime.com/about.htm), which helps women perform a virtual beauty makeover. A woman can check what shades work best for her skin tone by using her own photos uploaded to the app. The user adds features like foundation, blush, gloss, eye-shadow, eye-liner and lipstick. The app uses facial recognition and skin tone detection technology to assist the virtual makeover. It was developed by VDime Innovative Works headquarterd in Atlanta, Georgia, with its technology developed by its Indian division.

1000Lookz’ mission is to create “innovative products that bring cheer to consumers’ faces.”

Sowriraj got his experience from working as a key member of the team developing special image processing for the Indian Space and Research Organisation (http://www.isro.org).

The same team has also developed another service enabling users to transform standard emoticons – those cartoons used in electronic communications to convey emotions – into emoticons using your own face image. It is called Humecons (http://www.humecons.com), and its slogan is “Emote Yourself”.

The India TV Guide, based in Bangalore, India’s software hub (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Tech_Park,_Bangalore), is a mobile phone application developed by Jini Labs (http://www.jinilabs.com) offering programme listings for 150 television channels broadcast in India, and allows viewers to save reminders for favourite shows and build favourites lists.

Jini Labs also makes Jini Books (http://itunes.apple.com/in/app/jinibooks/id404988026?mt=8), a clever app to display books, magazines and journals that are hard to find in conventional shops. It is free and promises to have “indie book authors and publishers – including small size, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.”

A very useful app improving people’s lives is the Indian Railway Lite app. India’s railways are a critical part of the country’s economy, and the world’s largest railway system. The complexity of trying to work out the train schedule has been made easier with the app.

Founded by Srinath Reddy, the app’s chief technology officer at RSG Software Services (http://www.rsgss.com), the app enables users to discover train connections between stations, and find which trains pass through stations, while navigating the Indian Railways website. It is a good example of how an app can quickly become a big hit. It became the second most popular on the Apple India app store and is downloaded more than 1,000 times a day.

One of the advantages of the app is its ability to function without access to the Internet. It draws on its own database of information and offers a friendlier user interface than the Indian State Railways website.

“This feature has proved to be very popular as users can access train information even while they are travelling and are out of network range,” Reddy told Yourstory.in. “We update the app at regular intervals and the user has to download a new version of the app to get updated information. Trains are generally added once in a few months and the timetable does not change significantly, so the user can use the same version until the next one is released.”

The app’s creators initially found it difficult to get information and updates from Indian Railways.

“We took around four to five months to build the app,” Reddy said. “Significant effort went into compiling the train and station data as this was not easily available. Refining the UI (user interface) took quite some time as well.”

The company saw a market for the app because there were so many iPhone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone) users in India. The app was downloaded 45,000 times between June and September, and other versions, including one for Google Android (www.android.com) are in the works to broaden access to people without an iPhone.

The company has its headquarters in Ranchi, India and has four development centers in India located in Delhi, Pune, Ranchi and Hyderabad. Currently, the company has approximately 250 employees with core competencies in Apple, Filemaker and Open Source technologies.

The Tuk Tuk 2 app is a clever and practical application for users of India’s ubiquitous motorized and bicycle rickshaws. They are an important part of the country’s transport infrastructure – but a journey in one can be a stressful experience for many reasons. This app seeks to lesson the stress.

Tuk Tuk 2 app (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.mindhelix.tuktuk2&hl=en) is designed to introduce fairness to the auto rickshaw marketplace. It empowers travellers to track where they are on a journey, check the fare and find the distance covered. It helps to reduce exploitation of travellers and makes sure they know where they are at all times: a powerful resource in crowded, busy and confusing cities.

It was developed by Mind Helix Technologies (http://www.mindhelix.com), founded in 2009 as a dedicated application development company with a mission to empower people with its apps. And that is really what apps are all about!

Resources

1) Mobile phone boot camp: Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles: Website: http://www.media.mit.edu/ventures/EPROM/entrepreneurship.html

2) Mobile Active: MobileActive.org connects people, organizations, and resources using mobile technology for social change. Website: http://mobileactive.org/

3) Teams of motorcyclists with mobile phones in Lagos, Nigeria take pictures of traffic gridlock and open road, send it to central control, who grade it “slow”, “moving” or “free” and in turn send the message to subscribers. Website: http://www.traffic.com.ng

4) Southern Innovator magazine: New global magazine’s first issue tackles the boom in mobile phone and information technologies across the global South. Website: www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Issue-1

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022