USAID and m:Lab East Africa late last February started a focus group dubbed Wireless Wednesdays to bring farmers and IT developers together in a setting that would push for innovation of agricultural-specific phone-based solutions in the country.
Aimed at promoting the use of technology to promote productivity in agricultural value chains, Wireless Wednesdays encourage mobile application developers to create and test the apps with the actual consumer target audience before launching the innovations.
USAID and m:Lab said the developers should take advantage of the focus group to understand agricultural problems and come up with applicable and demand driven solutions.
According to the organisations, post harvest challenges including low productivity, storage, transportation and marketing discourage small-scale farmers as they experience low profitability.
In Kenya, agriculture contributes to 30 percent of the GDP, and employs more than 80 percent of the national labour force, Pricewaterhousecoopers report indicates. The country in addition,has more than 3 million farming families, and with an average of 90 of each mobile phone user sending more than 10 SMS each day, USAID expects that phone-based applications can offer persuasive and demand driven agricultural solutions.
As the innovations take centre stage within the East African Region, USAID also uses the discussion platform to encourage mobile application developers to come up with apps translatable into local languages — in addition to Swahili – for extensive use in the region’s diversified cultures.
Thomas Kioko, FarmPal App developer, told HumanIPO developers at the Wireless Wednesdays are urged to know where the farmers come from and use local language to address the needs of farmers.
Wirelsess Wednesdays attracts farmers, industry stakeholders, community leaders and software developers, members of the tech community and the media.
The next meetup session is scheduled for end of April 2012.