ICT for Health (Education)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cell Phone Use Changes Life in Africa

From the Y! news article of the same name:

Amina Harun, a 45-year-old farmer, used to traipse around for hours looking for a working pay phone on which to call the markets and find the best prices for her fruit. Then cell phones changed her life.

"We can easily link up with customers, brokers and the market," she says, sitting between two piles of watermelons at Wakulima Market in Kenya's capital.

Harun is one of a rapidly swelling army of wired-up Africans — an estimated 100 million of the continent's 906 million people. Another is Omar Abdulla Saidi, phoning in from his sailboat on the Zanzibar coast looking for the port that will give him the biggest profit on his freshly caught red snapper, tuna and shellfish.

Then there are South Africans and Kenyans slinging cell phones round the necks of elephants to track them through bush and jungle. And there's Beatrice Enyonam, a cosmetics vendor in Togo, keeping in touch with her husband by cell phone when he's traveling in the West African interior.


An industry that barely existed 10 years ago is now worth $25 billion, he says. Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors, the Celtel chief says. Air minutes have even become a form of currency, transactable from phone to phone by text message, he says.

And SMS for Ugandan farmers, including actual message content:

The CELAC Project seeks to collect and exchange this local agricultural content that works from the farmers. Dissemination methods include phone short text messages (SMS) - The project has a database of phone numbers to whom local agro-related information is sent every Monday. The category in the database is composed of farmers, Community Development Workers, Agricultural Extension Workers and any other interested person.


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