eDevelopment workshop on mobile innovation – Session 5

Notes from the World Bank eDevelopment Thematic Group workshop on “Mobile Innovations for Social and Economic Transformation – From Pilots to Scaled-up Implementation on 16 September in Washington DC.


Session 5: Mobile Applications in Agriculture and Rural Development


Introduction: Tim Kelly, Lead ICT Policy Specialist, WB

The dilemma bread vs. mobile phones was never a real dilemma – mobile phones help us to make better, cheaper, … bread


Framing the Topic and Learning from Experience
Kerry McNamara
, Consultant, ARD

The question is different from sector to sector

What we’re talking about are wireless – what are the opportunities for expanding wireless coverage

Impact of mobiles – letter a = access

  • more people have access to a mobile signal than ever
  • that’s changing our whole work

affordability, appliance – SMS as the most simple application

Changes don’t happen because of the mobile device but because of the ecosystem the device creates

Not what we can do – but what we should do

We tend to focus on the applications

  • making agricultural markets more efficient
  • although evidence may not be solid

We want people to have access – but we should think beyond the device & beyond the hand of the individual

The best interventions begin with a definition of the problem and clear design principles

  • the problem is not the technology
  • ICT is only the tool – we have to look how ICTs can help

We should talk about mobility, not about devices

  • Combination of mobility, distance and time is interesting
  • we shouldn’t be too fixated on platforms

How is information broadly understood? How can it be transformative?

We need to think about policies and regulations

Often in the last 10 years fascination with gadgets has cost us good development practice

What is to be replicated when trying to replicate a project? How much does the local context matter?

In the ICT4D community we tended to engineers solutions – we have to focus more on enabling the environment for innovation


David Edelstein, Director of ICT Innovation, Grameen Foundation

Microfinance has been around 1000 years, but technology can make it a lot more efficient

Grameen foundation – how can the mobile phone be used to improve the people’s lives?

  • different domains – also cross-domain
  • services that can be scaled and are sustainable

Using phones to collect information – and also disseminate information

Providing services over mobile phones

  • several criteria how the foundation identifies initiatives
  • specific project implementation process – rapid prototyping

Crucial for success – having the right partners with high level engagement

Service of the Grameen foundation in Uganda:

  • weather services
  • agriculture information
  • marketplace for farmers

Live demo of the Google SMS search

Community Knowledge Worker Initiative


  • Understanding needs – consult the user early and often
  • Be creative
  • Fail fast
  • Usability – trusted intermediary
  • Right partners


Aparjita Goyal, Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

Example project E-Choupal – service to cut out intermediaries and buy directly from soy farmers – as a business strategy for a private company

  • Internet kiosks where the local prices are posted on a website
  • Ware houses = hubs established in town – farmers going there to sell directly to the private company
  • Improvement of the situation of farmers – higher average revenue for the farmers
  • Farmers with good quality sell to the private company – downward pressure on the price


  • increase of soy price of 2-3%
  • the further away the kiosks are from the market, the lower the impact
  • farmers are responding to increased price


ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook
Kerry McNamara

Skipping this point due to lack of time – website


Q & A

Mobility is an enabler – timeliness in agriculture; the killer apps are in this sector

Bundling information – transaction – eGovernment services can be powerful but are all served on different platforms

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eDevelopment workshop on mobile innovation – Session 5
was published on 16.09.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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