Cisco Blogs

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

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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


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  1. We are KAMACHUMU ENVIRONMENT CARE ASSOCIATION worka from the remote village of Kamachumu. we work wth local poor community in the sector of agriculture, trees planting, beekeeping, livestock and education for children. Thanks to the mobile phone which at-least6 to every 10 family the have a mobile, either be given by the reletive fromthe town or they sell whatever they have to have mobile. We hope that through this programme our poor farmers in villages will at least be able to expand their income. We salute you

  2. Good article... But you should know that AFRICA is a Continent with 50 or so COUNTRIES... and cannot be referred to as a COUNTRY

    • Good news but sometimes it people would do more if it was in they village for me if i new that freetown kisauni mombasa were recieving help i would help to keep it going as community development is my thing