Friday, December 30, 2011

Smartphones and Agriculture

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1000 MPG.
Citizen reporting in Kenya through SMS and the web.

Posted on 23/11/2011 by admin

It is amazing to see just how many mobile technology projects for development are happening in Kenya! But why has Kenya been such a fertile ground for these projects? In a paper titled “Mobile Telephony in Kenya… is it ‘Making the life better’?“, Luca Manica and Michele Vescovi examine the situation:

At the end of 2007, Kenyan mobile operators offer services to more than ten million people so that nowadays one in three adults carry a cell-phone in Kenya and about the 80% of Kenyans are covered by mobile network signals.

These are impressive numbers. However, Manica and Vescovi point out that it is difficult to establish the actual penetration of mobile phones in Kenya, because of the sharing of handsets and mobile payphones. Official numbers are around 30%, which is actually low in comparison to other African countries such as Nigeria or South Africa. This would mean that there are still about 25 million Kenyans to sell phones to. The great market potential, together with the fact that the mobile phone industry contributed to more than 5% of GDP in Kenya in 2006 brings Manica and Vescovi to raise the question: Is the mobile rush in Kenya just a matter of business, or is it really aimed to human and social development?

—Technology and Human Development. Source: Manica and Vescovi

I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.

I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they're interested in.

Bill Gates

The above quotes are from Bill Gates founder of Microsoft and a visionary when it comes to technoilogy and visionary when it comes to charity for good of mankind.

Todays smart phones have been evolving over a long time. However time has come to use these extensively for the good of public and for increasing productivity. One might ask what is the realtionship between smartphones and agriculture. Agriculture sector has always kept up with technology. Infact early calender systems were developed by our ancestors to predict as accurately as possible the weather systems to help farmers sow and harvest at the right times and understand the rain fall patterns. Indian calender system called as "Panchanga" or 5 elements always tried observed the elements and stars to collerate the visibility of stars with that of the rainfall pattern. Panchangam is now used to develop personal astrological predictions. However in rural areas panchangams are used by the local temple priests to predict rainfall etc for the knowledge of farmers.

Todays tools are computers and the capacity of computers to revolutionize mathematical calculations needed for accurate weather predictions. Smartphones are evolution of computers where information is there in the palm of the hand and todays smart phones have much more capacity and power compared to computers 5 years ago.

What can smart phones be used for?

By developing these apps smartphones can make themselves relevant

1. Local langauage converters for androids (iphone is another story but android development software is free)
2. weather apps to quickly and accurately show weather patterns to farmers (e.g., weatherzone weather underground etc)
3. Apps to show market prices around a location using google locations
4. Apps to show crops suitable for local areas, sowing times, harvest times etc.
5. Apps to show soil types based on locations
6. Apps to show local resellers silos/mandis/godowns in an area
7. Apps to show wind direction and speed for sparys to be used.
8. At a larger level a grain buyer may be able to use the database via a smartphone to know how much of any crop is being sown in any area and may be able to develop forward contracts to enable to get good prices depending on market demand.
9. Local agronomists can provide advice over sms in emergencies.
10. Local agronomists/organizations can send data/information/emergency informations over messages to ensure for eg., farmers secure their livestock during flood or heavy rainfall types.
11. Farmers can locate local agistment areas and during drought times may be able to book the site.
12. Farmers can use it for shopping ie fetilisers, seed, water etc at the best price from the best reseller. Infact farmers can form a collective to drive the prices down through volume purchase.

What about India?

India is an energy starved country with meager resources allocated to agriculture. A smartphone is something almost every farmer can afford to purchase. Infact govt can give a smartphone to every farmer with lower than 5 acres of land. This will help every farmer to get informaiton in a local language so that they are prepared, can make plans for agricultural use.

Indian government if it wants agricultural productivity to increase without increasing the land clearing and area of production should use smartphones to develop apps to help farmers in local languages in the above areas listed.

Read the story below as it is now ahppening in Kenya already.


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