Tag Archives: Asia-Pacific

Nokia Life Tools lands in Indonesia

Here is today’s announcement about a Nokia Life Tools launch in Indonesia. I would be very keen to know what exactly is the technology behind Nokia Life Tools. Would anyone be able to clarify?

By Mike on 04 November 2009

Nokia-Life-Tools-Farmer

JAKARTA, Indonesia – It’s almost a year to the day that we first reported on an intriguing new service called Nokia Life Tools. Piloted and then officially debuting in India, Life Tools was designed to help improve the livelihood and lives of farmers, students and many people in more remote and rural areas in emerging market countries. It does this by offering easily accessible and up-to-date crop prices, education tools and entertainment packages, delivering this valuable information on a simple SMS backbone. Hence we’re excited to see Nokia Life Tools announced for Indonesia, where it has been keenly tailored towards its people’s needs.

Read on to find out more, see photos of folk using the service, and as always, share your comments below.

Nokia Life Tools has been tailored for Indonesian farmers

Nokia-Life-Tools-IndonesiaWhereas in India much of the focus for the agriculture service was aimed at delivering timely crop prices to help ensure farmers were able to get better value for their produce, Life Tools for Indonesia has been tailored to provide precious up-to-date info on livestock, fisheries and horticulture, as well as crops.

In terms of what this actually means, farmers will be able to access market prices (consumer price, wholesale price, mill price and farmer price), and are also able to tap into tips and advice on farming techniques (such as animal health care and alerts on new government schemes), as well as receive all-important weather forecasts.

We’re stoked to see how Life Tools has been tweaked to target the unique needs of the people in this territory – could this approach be suited to other services too? Let us know what you think.

The agriculture service will initially launch in Java and Sumatera, prior to rolling out across the rest of Indonesia.

Help with education through Nokia Life Tools

Nokia-Life-Tools-EducationWhen you access the education part of Life Tools there are three strands you can pursue – learning English, preparing for school and higher education exams, and improving your general knowledge.

Learning English is broken into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, making it easy for anyone to jump in at the stage they’re most comfortable with. In terms of an outcome, the information and lessons that are delivered through Life Tools have been designed to help students come out the other side with the ability to read, write and understand simple English pieces of text.

The test preparation part of the education tool provides students with valuable access to material in keeping with the national curriculum at junior and high school levels. As for the general knowledge stuff, much of that information is again tailored to the region, supplemented with more info related to global general knowledge.

Nokia Life Tools injects entertainment

Nokia-Life-Tools-Entertainment

The entertainment tool adds a lighter touch to proceedings, enabling folk pluck news, astrology, jokes, movie news and reviews via subscription or on-demand. Whereas downloads such as wallpapers, animations, themes, music and comics are solely available via on-demand.

Nokia-1800Nokia Life Tools will launch in Indonesia in early December 2009, and will debut on the Nokia 2323 classic, Nokia 2330 classic and Nokia 2700 classic. It’ll later become available on the five new devices announced today for Indonesia, including the Nokia 1280 (Nokia’s cheapest ever phone), Nokia 1616, Nokia 1800, Nokia 2220 slide and Nokia 2690.

via Nokia Life Tools lands in Indonesia | Nokia Conversations – The official Nokia Blog.

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Service Syndication and Nokia Life Tools

This video was filmed at the Digital World Forum, W3C workshop in Maputo, Mozambique 1-2 April, 2009. Mr. Paavo Krepp, Head of Emerging Market Services, Africa and Middle East of Nokia, South Africa stresses the importance of content for the creation of adequate mobile information services in developing countries. Given the low disposable incomes of users of agricultural information services, Mr. Krepp emphasises the importance of enhancing the relevance of the delivered content by providing dynamic time and location specific information. He also discusses the customisation of mobile services to local perceptions, languages, understandings of iconography, and dynamic mappings of crops.

In the mobile sector, collaboration among content providers with local and domain knowlegde, telecom operators and device manufacturers appears to be key for the successful provision of information services for the agricultural sector, including advisory and marketing services. The recent partnership between Nokia and Reuters Market Light for the Nokia Life Tools pilot in India is a great example of syndication in the delivery of mobile services for users in developing countries. I expect that we should be seeing more partnerships of this type if mobile technology is to deliver on its promise of improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in developing countries. Nowadays, these people are facing numerous challenges ranging from erratic weather, due to climate change, to food security. Working collaboratively towards the provision of adequate technology-based information services for their needs seems the very least we could do.

IBM pushes IT towards the Base of the Pyramid

Pyr.mea.IT – Permeating IT towards the Base of the Pyramid is an exploratory research project which was started by the IBM India Research Laboratory (IRL) in New Dehli in August 2006. Its aim is to create technologies which would provide IT solutions relevant to the needs of people in developing regions of the world.

voikiosk

The project team including Sheetal K. Agarwal, Arun Kumar, Amit A. Nanavati and Nitendra Rajput have recently demonstrated the use of VoiGen and VoiKiosks. These systems allow the creation and browsing of VoiceSites forming a “spoken web”. The systems developed by Pyr.mea.IT consists of the deployment of software called VoiGen through which IRL is looking to enable rural users to input and create content in the spoken web. Complimentary to VoiGen and the content generation process is a service called VoiKiosk which would allow information users to access the available content. Voice kiosks are envisaged as telecentres enabling the use of the spoken web through the proximal literacy of kiosk operators.

In order to create a voice site, a uaer would need to dail a numeber and follow the instructions provided by VoiGen.  The software asks users to record, in their local language, information such as a welcome greeting and contact details, while creating behind the scenes a VoiceSite. A phone number, analogous to a URL, is then assigned to the user’s content. Anyone who dials that number gets access to the recorded information and is given help navigating to related information. The way a caller navigates the VoiceSite is based on a templates developed by IRL, including voice site templates for advertisements and for auctions. Not unlike classified, the voice sites created through VoiGen are meant to enhance the trade opportunities of Indian small businesses offering and looking to buy anything from vegetables to jewellery, to electronics.

According to the New Scientist, 24 October 2008, “the spoken web is a network of VoiceSites, just as the internet is a network of websites. A VoiceSite can only be accessed by a phone, and only requires the user to be able to speak and listen. Callers can create their own VoiceSites or access those of others. They can also surf the spoken web, jumping from VoiceSite to VoiceSite using speech.”  The spoken web is an attempt to bring the benefits of the internet to rural India where people tend to earn only $4 per day or less.

The Pyr.mea.IT project has been targeted towards the use of voice communication because studies of mobile phone use in India, carried out by IRL have shown the dominance of voice as a communication medium. Not unlike many other places in the developing world, the popularity of text messages and WAP communication channels in India is affected by users’ literacy and technological literacy levels.

Pyr.mea.IT is an exciting project because by making voice the primary mode of communication and information exchange, it takes a step towards adjusting the development of technological solutions to the information needs, and literacy requirements of end users. Still, many challenges remain. Voice services are traditionally challenged by users’ propensity to hang up because of time pressures, because of users’ dissatisfaction with the progress they have been able to make, or because users have reached a node where none of the available navigation choices seems appropriate. Additionally, the navigation process could be challenged by the suitability of the voice recognition technologies currently available to the specifics of Indian rural languages and dialects.

KACE (Kenya) and the Kerala Fish Trade (India) on TelecomTV

Under the title “Market Intelligence: How Mobiles are Helping Farmers and Fishermen” Telecom TV recently covered the work of the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE) , as well as the use of mobile phones for price discovery by fishermen in Kerala, India. Trades of various other goods and services in India were also covered. Both, the work of KACE and the changes in the information behaviour of fishermen in Kerala are phenomona well familiar to people interested in the application of mobile technology to agricultural trade in developing countries. Still, the video material allows us the opportunity to visualise the daily routines and work conditions of Kenyan market traders and of Kerala fishermen.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Name: TV Ramachandran, Mutahi Kagwe, Godfrey Fwamba
Recorded: 13/03/2009 – Nairobi, Kenya and Kerala, India

jensen-2007The background behind KACE is that it is a commercial enterprise seeking to facilitate the process of price discovery occurring the market exchange of agricultural products. The video footage covers the work of Godrey Fwamba who appears to work as an enumerator and his duties seem to involve daily visits to the Nairobi market. During those visits he collects prices from the local traders, then sends them back to his office via SMS, where they are made available to farmers. The role of enumerators is crucial for the successful implementation of mobile market information services. A dedicated network of extension workers is capable of collecting comprehensive price and avalability information from local markets, thereby enabling ICT solutions to deliver relevant information with potential for changing the behaviour and choices of market suppliers.

The video further shows the work of Pradeep Kumar, skipper of the Sreevaltsom, a trawler fishing in the seas of Kerala, India. Pradeep Kumar is shown using his mobile to check fish prices, thereby ensuring he lands his catch at the most profitable quayside market. The story about the impact of increased mobile network coverage in the coastal waters of Kerala on the market prices for fish in the region is familiar from the work of Robert Jensen. In Issue 3, 2007 of the Quarterly Journal of Economics Robert Jensen published the results from a study carried out between 1997 and 2001 in theh Kerala region. The empirical worked showed that the increased availability of mobile phone communication, encouraged fishermen to make informed decisions about which port to land at and reduced the price dispersion among fish markets in different ports. It is worthwhile to point out that the behavioural changes and the welfare gains in Kerala were not the result of any subsidised mobile market information initiative. By contrast, the changes in Kerala were self-sustaining because they resulted from individual bhavioural adaptations to information availability.

Nokia Introduces Life Tools in India

Using information from Nokia Life Tools pilot shows high appeal for livelihood and life improvement services in India.

In December 2008 Nokia launched in India a pilot range of information services, covering topics in Agriculture, English Language, General Knowledge and Astrology. The services are geared towards mobile phone users in emerging markets, particulatly in rural areas. Nokia has indicated that any successful initiatives in India will be expanded across selected countries in Asia and Africa.

Today Nokia announced the conclusion of the pilot phase of its pioneering Life Tools service in Maharashtra, India, and the results show that subscribers are reaping the benefits. Extensive feedback from actual subscribers revealed that the service had wide appeal, and connected with subscribers at both emotional and functional levels. The positive feedback from beta trial means full commercial launch of the infotainment services is on its way in the first half of 2009.

The service will be enabled out of the box in the Nokia 2320 and Nokia 2323 handsets, which will soon begin shipping. Support for more devices will be added later in the year.

nokia-life_toolsIn terms of content, Nokia Life Tools is a range of agriculture information and education services designed for rural and small town communities in emerging markets. It uses an icon-based user interface that can display information simultaneously in two languages. SMS is used to deliver the content so GPRS coverage and fiddly settings are not required.

The Agriculture service of Life Tools provides an easy interface to Reuters Market Light, an information service which delivers information on weather, market prices and farming advice. Users of the Agriculture Service described that they were better informed about market rates for their produce. Farmers found that getting prices daily on their mobile phones reduced their dependency on agents for basic information. Now with greater awareness on market conditions, there was newfound confidence in their negotiations with the agents. There was also resounding appreciation for the time and money saved from not having to make multiple trips to the market place to get the latest rates.

Location Information at CellBazaar, Bangladesh

I have been taking a good look at the website of Grameenphone’s CellBazaar in Bangladesh. The CellBazaar initiative is certainly worth some consideration because it is one of the better established mobile marketplaces.

CellBazaar offers multiple channels for checking the listings and for submission. The mobile channels include SMS and WAP. Concurrently, all the sell osms-buy1ffesms-sellrs submitted within the last 30 days are available for viewing online.

I have been particularly interested in the CellBazaar tutorials for the viewing of the available offers via mobile technology and for the submission of offers. The tutorials feature the procedures for announcing a sell lead and for checking the sell leads. The procedures (SMS Buy, SMS Sell) involve the sending of 4 text messages in order to sell, and of 5 messages in order to buy. In response, the user of the system receives lists of the available metacathegory, cathegory, sub-cathegory and price range options. The user makes a choice by texting to CellBazaar the number of the selected option.

wap-buywap-sellThe buying and selling procedures are less clumsy when the users have WAP trechnology at their disposal. The buying and the selling procedures are explained respectively at WAP Buy and WAP Sell.

Considering the SMS and WAP procedures one fact sticks out. In neither selling procedures (SMS or WAP) is the user required to specify his/her location. In the WAP Buy procedure once a buyer chooses the sub-cathegory of goods he/she is interested in, he/she needs to specify a location and a price range. In the SMS Buy procedure the is required to specify a price range. This all leaves the question open as to how CellBazaar is able to know the location of its users. Is anyone aware of what location technology they are using? If CellBazaar do indeed infer the location of their users without asking them to confirm it, that seems to me a rather poor practice. If it is otherwise, I would very much appreciate hearing about it.

Follow-up on Liberian Markets Parts 1 & 2

After my recent posts with regards to quantity measures, scales, weights, packaging etc. I have been alterted to the article by Kiringai Kamau in the recent issue of Information Technology in Developing Countries, Volume 18, No. 3, October 2008. Kiringai Kamau describes the impact of an electronic measurement system at a milk procurement station in Githunguri, Kenya. The author also mentions many concerns, vested interests and conflicts which influence the actions of both farmers (sellers) and procurers (buyers) in the absence of an indisputable measurement system.

“As you may agree, farmers’ earnings are not always proportionate to what is paid to them by the processors to whom they sell their produce. The processor is normally paid more and can at his whim inflate prices to suit his financial appetite, thereby creating inflation that affects those outside the processing arena. To make matters even worse, the poor farmer normally delivers more produce but the records are falsified by middlemen or intermediaries who collect the produce from farmers, and then deliver or sell whatever they have collected from the farmer to the processors. Unfortunately, the farmer is hostage to this system and has nowhere to take his produce besides to the same unscrupulous clerk or middleman who steals from him with impunity.

When the clerks from procuring intermediaries weigh the produce, they traditionally record a farmer’s delivery on a manual delivery ticket. If we take the case of milk which is our latest sector as a company to focus automation on, an illiterate farmer will lose milk:

  • At the weighing point where the scale may be deliberately mis-calibrated, and is always rounded downwards, and
  • At the produce delivery transcription level.

This inefficiency and resultant loss of effective weights against which payment is made, is repeated at every transcription point where there are clerks, before the actual final record against which payment is made has been captured. When the organization procuring the produce is a farmer cooperative as happens in the cases we have been dealing with, the managers may know that there is a problem of this nature but they too are held hostage by the clerks and their system of operating.

The challenge lies in the fact that most farmers are illiterate and may not be able to tell when clerks cheat on the reading of the scale or if they transcribe the wrong reading from the scale for their records. Indeed, even when they can read or write, the clerk can choose to take the wrong weight against which the literate farmer may have no recourse. Unfortunately, whatever the error, farmers have nowhere to turn to and are forced to develop some blind faith in the representative of the organization that procures their agricultural produce out of which they get their payment. Otherwise they will not be able to sell to anyone at all! Smallholder farmers may not complain, and when they do, they will not let the fraudulent clerk know in order to avert being blacklisted.

Even when the clerk is honest, the common analog scale normally used by the procuring institutions is calibrated to the nearest 0.5 of a kilogram. This means that in the case where the analog scale is used, clerks still have room to either round the readings downwards or upwards depending on their own whim. At times, records are lost by the farmers so that whatever is finally paid to them may not necessarily be what is due to them but rather what the clerks in the purchasing organization may decide is the correct rounded approximation.

Everything therefore relies on a procurement-payment system that is controlled by people other than the resource owner – the farmer. The extra weighed produce deliveries (derived from the aggregation of rounded readings or deliberate transcription errors) is then transferred through records so that payments are made to a rogue collaborating farmer who in the end oils the chain of thieving clerks, based on whatever may be their agreed formula. Though the farmers and managers in the procuring organization know that this scenario holds, they normally have no way of catching the thieves. Promoting more productivity at the farm level does not help in empowering poor rural communities, where wealth is most needed. And no matter what effort is made, poor rural farmers continue being poor. The process based technology that we evolved addresses this.

Our technology innovation, which is a digital handheld scale, weighs to the closest 0.01 of a kilogram of agricultural produce. Using electronic storage that downloads the data to a centralized database, and linking the scale memory to an electronic load cell, the scale is able to:

  • Weigh accurately to the nearest 0.01 of a Kilogram
  • Store farmer records in a Read Only Memory
  • Get powered through stored-electrical-power to make the scale memory/storage operate away from grid power
  • Through the power of a customized firmware designed to mimic the operations of the activities being addressed, automatically capture farmer records and their weighments
  • Capture and transfer farmer records on a farmer smartcard that can be used in input stores and retail outlets with credit arrangements with the produce buying institution/cooperative

Interfacing this scale with a computer enables the data from the scale to be transferred to an application that then updates records pertaining to payrolls for farmers and the procuring company’s internal staff. Farmer records are captured into the scale at the beginning of a field activity so that only real and authentic farmers can weigh their produce using the custom digital scale. This then removes the need for manual records and the control that has hitherto been in the hands of clerks that sell excess milk or tea in their own names or jointly with others.

This is then followed by data encryption so that data is not intelligible to the office clerks within the procuring institution. This forestalls any potential for data manipulation through manual effort. Electronic data capture then ensures that the processing of the farmers’ produce deliveries is done and records updated on a daily basis. A portable thermal printer that is strapped on the weighing clerk’s belt allows records that a farmer who needs a printed delivery ticket (a receipt of his milk delivery) to be printed. Data so collected and downloaded into a centralized server makes it available for remote querying by other parties such as the farm owner or management so long as such parties have the necessary authentication. Where the futures price is known, a farmer can take credit based on his produce delivery or obtain credit from a collaborating store using the farmer smartcard.

The above model has been under implementation for the last eight years in one of the dairy smallholder cooperatives, Githunguri Dairy, which started in year 2000 when they could only pay their farmers Ksh. 5,000,000 a month. Today they pay their farmers in excess of Ksh. 120,000,000 a month with an average monthly income of Ksh. 8,500 a farmer, an income that is close the basic salary of a teacher. The impact of this effort has been that the chairman of this cooperative was rewarded in the last general election with a vote to represent the constituency where the cooperative is based. The campaign story was the exemplary leadership that he has demonstrated through his strengthening of income generation ability that the smallholder farming community enjoys. They laud the transparent handling of milk records and payment which we know is associated more with the technology than the man. But indeed it is his far sighted thinking and the desire for an impact that he allowed technology to be tried in a rural area.”