Airtel Africa is working with the GSMA to provide 250 000 small-holder farmers in Kenya with reliable and relevant agricultural information via their mobile phones.
The innovative project, dubbed ‚’Sauti ya Mkulima’ (Swahili for voice of the farmer), aims to provide farmers with access to pertinent agriculture-related information, advice and research that will help them make better decisions about their crops, increasing the productivity of their yield, as well as their potential income. It will also help create a farmer community within which peers can share experiences and exchange information about social gatherings, events, and job opportunities.
‚”At Airtel, we recognize innovative telecommunications solutions have the power to transform communities. This initiative is a solid testament to what partnerships that harness relevant consumer needs can achieve in overcoming daily challenges. We are excited and thankful to the partners involved in birthing this initiative,‚” explains Shivan Bhargava, Managing Director, Airtel Kenya.
He continues: ‚”Our ‚’Sauti ya Mkulima’ project will provide small-holder farmers with access to quality content, information and know-how on agriculture-related activities. Gaining access to this information will be immensely beneficial to the farmers whose livelihoods are dependent on their yield. The information will allow them to make better informed decisions that will result in improved productivity.‚”
As part of the partnership, the GSMA mFarmer initiative supported by USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Airtel USD 400,000 to be used towards the ‚’Sauti ya Mkulima’ project. The initiative aims to facilitate the rapid scaling of the use of mobile phone networks to provide farmers in developing countries with agricultural information. The funds will be used to develop a reliable database of content with the help of partners such as the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), an inter-governmental not-for-profit organization and radio-based information provider Kilimo Media, as well as to set up the technological capabilities to execute the project with the help of world-class technology service providers.
Initially, ‚’Sauti ya Mkulima’ will focus on small-holder Kenyan farmers engaged in maize, banana, mango, rice, beans and horticulture (tomato and black night shade) crops. Information on more crops will be added on a quarterly basis. Airtel plans to further develop the model and eventually replicate it across all its markets on the continent.
Africa gets broadband boost
ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.
Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.
Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.
ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.
At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”
Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.
Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.
Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.
AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.
The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.
‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”
The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.
‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.
The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”