True to its brand name, Grameen Foundation is spearheading change in the microfinance sector once again by venturing into technology in order to deliver its potential to the poor. Their latest product is a tool that aims to encourage economic prosperity by eliminating information asymmetry through mobile phones in the rural sector. The tool, AppLab (read more at Microfinance Hub), has been successfully implemented in Uganda involving four different services:
AppLab Application 1: Weather Forecasts
Users can now send simple text messages to obtain daily as well as seasonal weather forecasts for certain cities and districts. Data about the day’s temperature, forecast for the next three days, as well as other atmospheric conditions is sent back instantaneously.
The benefit: for one, farmers can plan their farming activities in accordance with the mood of the weather. Secondly, people can plan their trips to the nearest town or city, a journey that is often on foot. The advantages offered by this service are simple and more a matter of convenience.
AppLab Application 2: Google Trader
Users can use this application as a marketplace, or an intermediary though which buys and sellers of agricultural products meet in order to decide upon prices, quantities and timings of transactions.
The benefit: buyers can easily search for the best bargain while sellers can negotiate the highest possible prices for their products. At the same time, since buyers and sellers, who could live several hours away from one another, retain the money that was previously given to the intermediary, or middle-man as his margin.
AppLab Application 3: Farmer’s Friend
As the name suggests, this application provides farmers with short tips about preventing disease in crops and animals, maximizing crop yield, storing crops efficiently and safely, etc. Google’s search engine technology is used to scour a database of short pieces of information.
The benefit: traditional and modern wisdom is gathered and disseminated through this service to ensure everyone has timely and relevant information which can improve their output as farmers. Educating the world, one farmer at a time.
AppLab Application 4: Clinic Finder and Health Tips
Text messages are used to spread information about basic ailments, AIDS, HIV, locations to the nearest clinic, etc., to patients as well as people who may be interested in gaining such knowledge. (Read about another health-care initiative by Grameen)
The benefit: poor health is a major concern and source of cash outflow for the poor. This service will ensure people get quick first aid, and can take the right preventative measures to ensure better health standards. The user’s privacy is a bonus.
These services are simply the tip of the iceberg that is yet to be explored by Grameen Foundation and service partners of AppLab. Can you think of any other service that may be helpful?
(Guest post by Fehmeen, Microfinance Hub)