The Benefits of Mobile Apps in Rural Kenya
It is a bit strange to find that so many people are caught off guard when you mention that places like Kenya are considerably well-developed,…
It is a bit strange to find that so many people are caught off guard when you mention that places like Kenya are considerably well-developed, particularly in terms of infrastructure and technology. One friend remarked, “Uh, wow, I’m not thinking of Africa when I think of mobile apps, just open plains. If you would’ve said China or Japan, sure, but Africa?” Clearly someone has not been keeping up with current events. As written about previously at Fueled, Kenya’s Silicon Valley is sprouting up some substantial tech start-ups, and advances in web connectivity for mobile devices are changing existence even for those living and working in rural areas of Africa.
Frankly, data is widely available, and the costs are continuously decreasing, thus making wider access to the conveniences of mobile device innovation that much more of anreality. Most importantly, mobile conveniences are turning communication and networking difficulties - largely due to staggering geographic distance - into a more or less obsolete obstacle. Two particularly innovative and charming mobile applications that are a testimony to this assertion are iCow and M-Farm, both mobile platforms that have surfaced in Kenya within the last year.
iCow is an awesome agricultural platform that won the Apps4Africa contest in 2010. It functions by means of web- and SMS-based services. The main purpose of this app is to keep small-scale farmers up to speed with how to properly care for their cattle in terms of supplying optimum animal health care through information and access to vets and AI agents, optimum animal nutrition, milk record keeping, prevention and cure of milk-related diseases, and calf illnesses and diseases. Because the app actually sports a crowdmap, farmers have the ability to know exactly where to go to find a neighboring farm in times of crisis, and investors living in Nairobi are kept abreast of happenings on their farms by virtue of having access to comprehensive reports.
When put into perspective, apps such as this are extremely important. According to iCow, in Kenya “the dairy industry is worth Kshs 40-billion and is supported by roughly 1.6-million farmers.” The average amount of milk sold per day is estimated to be 3- to 5- liters, yet 15-liters is proposed to be the minimum volume necessary to be considered above the poverty line in Kenya. Turning the wheel of iCow are experts who have essential insight regarding how to maximize crop and livestock production to build profit. The services go even further than the few just listed. The individual questions either texted to iCow, or posted on their Facebook page, are a testament to the app’s indispensable usefulness.
Creating and maintaining an app that can safeguard against potential detriments to the production process is a cause worth supporting, especially in a continent whose economy thrives on agricultural means of business. As an extra perk, cows and calves can be registered onto the iCow application, thus enabling a more controlled and steady monitoring system. One farmer reports, “I am observing a blinding white cloud-ish spot on the eyes of my dearest cow and it has lots of tears. What’s this? And medications? What causes this?” Thankfully, iCow is able to diagnose it as pinkeye and recommend the use of specific medications at an early stage to cure it.
Like iCow, M-Farm was created in the interest of furthering the prosperity of agri-business in Kenya through connecting farmers to buyers, and finding creative solutions to potential drawbacks in crop or livestock care. It won the Mobile Boot Camp Kenya competition and has been thriving ever since. The platform utilizes the magic of both web and SMS for keeping people connected.
Farmers have constant access to price information for certain crops and livestock in specific markets throughout Kenya, thus enabling them to not only plan which crops will be worthwhile to grow, but also become more aware of how to bargain for the best price possible with purchasers.
If all or most farmers within a relatively small radius can keep connected via M-Farm on their mobile devices, another particularly widely-beneficial possibility appears: group selling. Through this means of production, a collective group of farmers are able to pool their produce and resources in order to come up with large quantities in a short space of time, all for the purpose of exporting and selling to large retailers and companies, two very lucrative routes. Collective buying power is another excellent way of pooling the money necessary to purchase bulk supplies of farming essentials such as fertilizers, seeds, and equipment at a discounted rate.
Both mobile apps are amazingly good examples of how technological innovation, especially by means of affordable mobile access, can propel economic growth. Moreover, it allows for the flourishing of new, diverse communities of thriving entrepreneurs such as women to be competitive in the marketplace. Extensive web-access is progressively becoming a basic need in building the path to development.