At least 30 per cent of total food produced in Africa does not reach market due to poor market information brought about by high cost of communication and poor infrastructure.
The quantity is even higher in rural Africa where more than 65 per cent of the continent’s food is produced, considering poor mobile, internet and power connectivity.
Free internet like services on an ordinary mobile phone handset!!
This situation is however going to change for good, thanks to ONEm, an emerging world giant in mobile telecommunication, which has designed simple, cheap and effective technology that allows people to chat online for free without internet or smart phones-just simple analogue mobile handset.
The unique innovation that marries traditional and modern day technology is fast growing in the world, with East Africa set to enjoy before the year ends, when ONEm officially launches in Tanzania.
Speaking exclusively to Dhahabu Kenya from the United Kingdom, ONEm Chief Executive Officer Christopher Richardson said that this innovation is specifically designed to help people in the developing world to exploit available resources for positive social economic transformation
‘’ONEm is working with existing mobile phone operators to reach and help over three billion people in the worlds who have no access to internet to create and share information at much affordable fee,’ said Christopher.
He explained that ONEm in Africa will give face to an old adage-Information is power, as it is designed to fuel people to people communication.
‘A tomato farmer in a remote village in Kenya just need to write a simple SMS or send a voice advertising his/her produce via ONEm enabled operator service and it will instantly reach thousands of potential buyers connected’
How it works
ONEm partners with the existing mobile operators to enable users connect with each other with their membership ID for unlimited conversations either person to person or as a group.
One of these products is Postboard, a community driven bulletin board where any user can post anything they like whether its business or social
This tool works like classified ads where people can buy and sell things
Its functionality mirrors that of WhatsApp where group members can share information. It however goes beyond individuals and a single group as it allows users to share information in different groups
The Ministry of Agriculture for instance can buy a Postboard code from ONEm which it can use to share and exchange agricultural information with farmers across the country via Safaricom, Airtel or Orange telephony
In this case, the ministry caters for the code’s post, allowing farmers to receive information for free and engage with each other at normal fee charged by Safaricom, Airtel or Orange
This means that the mobile phone operator who partners with ONEm increases both revenue and customer subscription
A person in poultry farmers group can advertise his eggs in sugarcane, maize, tenants and even house help groups, hence maximum reach.
When the users send voice/MMS or SMS via this platform, it is only their names that are displayed and not their phone numbers. Only the operator and ONEm are able to access mobile phone numbers
This means that users are secured from stokers and cyber criminals who can use their phone details for criminal activities.
Work with existing mobile operators-Through the Operator model (TTO)
Christopher explained that ONEm’s Through the Operator Model (TTO) give partner operator free access to the data centre to enable its customers to send voice and text messages to many receivers, and access other Internet-based data such as Wikipedia at a small fee.
‘’This is opposed to OTT (Over the top) system which works over the user’s data networks to access services where operators do not charge anything,’’ he added.
The ONEm ecosystem allows operators to innovate quickly without any investment in additional infrastructure. It allows mobile operators to produce high-quality smart services over the network and users can access period based communication without the need for internet
He was however quick to add that ONEm exists to complement and not do away with internet services.
What it means to food security in Africa
Whereas lack market information is responsible for 30 per cent of food destroyed annually, poor flow of agricultural information lead to poor yields, hence poverty and famine
ONEm’s entry in the continent’s agricultural space is therefore expected to boost information flow to farmers mostly residing in rural areas, positively impacting on their general well being
Information about new high yielding crops, animal disease outbreak, weather details and market leads will be effectively shared by relevant stakeholders and individual farmers at more affordable fee or even free of charge.