The possible reality

The benefits of market improvements can seem abstract and intangible. Although I have the mobile market dream and I dabble in abstraction, I also appreciate the real and very concrete way in which technology could change market transactions. Below I present my vision of what these improvements could amount to. The photos used were taken in rural Mozambique. The associated names and stories are products of my own imagination.

Individuals: Mafuane, 15

She is young and keen user of her mobile. She uses it to send text messages to friends who have moved away from the village and to record the contact details of new people she meets. She enjoys listening to the ring tones that came with her model and hopes one day to be able to buy a mobile on which she can listen to music, take photos and videos. Mafuane used to spend long hours waiting at the road which passes through her village, trying to sell tangerines from her mother’s farm to people travelling on chapas and buses. Now she is able to help her mother find buyers for the tangerines using her mobile. She sends information about the quantity of available tangerines, the price per kilo they are willing to accept and the deadline by which they need to make the transaction. Sending the information is free so Mafuane’s mom does not mind. Usually within hours she receives a call from buyers driving down the road who are willing to buy her oranges at a price higher than her stated minimum. This allows Mafuane to spend more time on schoolwork, helping her mother and taking care of her younger brother.

Rural Communities: Ramakeele, 27 and Phumzile, 34

Ramakeele and Phumzile are a family who own a small farm away from main roads. They grow bananas and cassava. Since they could not afford to take their produce to market they used to sell it to intermediaries or transport it to the roadside where they spent a few days trying to find willing buyers. Since they have been able to use their mobile to sell their produce they have been spending a lot more time working on their crops and caring for their children. They have received better prices because they do not have to compete with all
the farmers at the roadside. They are much more aware of the current prices of agricultural produce and what the market wants. Consequently, they have noticed the demand for soy and sugar cane because they are used for the production of biofuels. Ramakeele and Phumzile are considering planting some sugar cane next year and gradually switching to the production of higher value cash crops.

Regional Markets

Buyers at regional markets have noticed changes since the network operator introduced a mobile market system. They find that the produce on offer is fresher and the variety is greater than what they were used to, while the prices they pay have not changed. Some restaurant and hawker stall owners have been able to establish direct links with producers in the countryside, thereby ensuring the quality of their supplies. Individuals have been using the trading system while travelling through the countryside or when they have had to cater for big events such as weddings or holidays.

What is the MMD4D blog?

Welcome to the MMD4D blog!

This initiative is aimed at highlighting market design issues occurring in the context of efforts targeted at the introduction of ICTs to the benefit of people living in less developed countries.

I hope that academics, NGO activists and technology practitioners will find the material in this blog worthwhile reading. I intend to include sections focusing on academic findings in the area of market design, sections detailing the technology needs and opportunities established in the course of NGO projects, and sections featuring technological developments likely to enable mobile trading.

I am sure that my efforts would not be exhaustive, so please comment, contribute references and resources.

Mobile Market Design for Development