Mobile Internet Applications in Rural Africa
By Molly Mattessich, Guest Columnist
In some ways, rural countries, including those in Africa, are ahead of the United States on technology. Without the infrastructure — offices, network lines, etc. — to use the Internet in more traditional ways, they have relied on cell phones to exchange information.
According to Cisco’s recent VNI Service Adoption Forecast (VNI-SA) research, mobile commerce ranks as the second-fastest-growing consumer mobile service, increasing at a 42.7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) globally from 2011 to 2016. The Middle East and Africa will have the second-highest number of users in 2016, reaching 424 million.
Rural farmers in Africa, for example, now often use their cell phones to check commodity prices before heading to market, helping them improve their bottom line at times when a few cents can make a huge difference.Some people would like to integrate the mobile web even further into farming.
This proposal would create a lending system to allow farmers to borrow bigger pieces of agricultural equipment from each other using a phone-based checkout system. The cost of developing this lending system is estimated to be around $10,000.
If it works, it would generate many times that amount for rural African farmers.
It’s not yet a reality, but it could be soon.
Helping to Advance Farming Practices in Africa
The proposal is part of Africa Rural Connect, an online program of the National Peace Corps Association, which is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization supporting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Peace Corps community. Africa Rural Connect is an online global collaboration network where knowledgeable people work together to communicate and respond to the needs of African farmers. People around the world submit ideas to help rural African farmers which are then voted by other users and often remixed into new ideas.
Other proposals that have recently been submitted to Africa Rural Connect are just as interesting and potentially as game-changing. Below are a few of the ideas:
- Create a “farm-to-fork” application to help rural farmers manage their crops, get business tutorials and conserve water.
- Build solar-powered Internet kiosks to bridge the digital divide in rural villages.
- Use GPS technology to allow individual farmers to cultivate fragmented plots of land without building fences.
Molly Mattessich is manager of online initiatives and oversees Africa Rural Connect for the National Peace Corps Association, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization supporting Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and the Peace Corps community. To learn more, visit www.peacecorpsconnect.org.
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What is VNI-SA? This is the Service Adoption forecast portion of our popular VNI research. It focuses on the worldwide end user adoption rates for a wide variety of services (e.g., SMS, mobile banking, online gaming, social media, location-based services). Read more at http://www.cisco.com/go/vnisa