ICT/mobile Phone Technology: A shift in the right direction
Thirteen African nations came together for the AgriKnowledge Share Fair in Addis Ababa at the end of October 2012 to learn about approaches for quicker and more efficient humanitarian response. Government representatives, researchers, UN agencies and NGOs gathered for a three day symposium on best practices in agriculture fisheries, and livestock interventions. As a component of this forum, CaLP collaborated with Oxfam GB, ACTED and FAO to demonstrate the expanding use of ICT (information and communications technology) that is influencing and changing how practitioners within the sector deliver services.
The Cash Learning Partnership – CaLP provided insight in the use of mobile phones as a platform for delivering cash transfers in humanitarian response; a system that 16% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has embraced. The ability to deliver cash transfers over mobile phones has grown exponentially since pioneers Safaricom (Vodaphone) initiated its M-Pesa platform in 2007. Five years onward, more than 19.5 million Kenyans use M-Pesa for both personal and business purposes. Though the host country for the event does not have a mobile telecommunications platform with the ability to transfer money, it is worth noting that the number of mobile phone users in Ethiopia has increased from 5 million people in 2011 to over 17 million in 2012. This massive growth, paired with the strong remittance culture in Ethiopia, presents companies like Ethio Tel with a great opportunity to build a service that will certainly provide numerous benefits to everyday Ethiopians.
Oxfam GB demonstrated the use of mobile phone technology to monitor water points across Ethiopia and Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands. Using phones allows transmission of immediate information so that a quicker response can be rolled out when emergency thresholds are reached.
ACTED showcased their drought early warning systems using mobile phone technology from Uganda. The collection of key indicators in the system provides the Government of Uganda with critical points of intervention in the event that drastic changes appear in the monitoring. Information is gathered via a digital data collection platform and transmitted back to centralized servers in Kampala.
FAO shared the uses of two different formats of technology – mobile phone data collection systems for monitoring programs as well as digital pen technology for conducting surveys and monitoring. Both of these platforms are being used in Kenya for monitoring livestock disease.
The essential point from the good practices presented at the AgriKnowledge Share Fair clearly demonstrate the use of ICT as an effective means to gather and transmit data. Furthermore it has also been demonstrated that ICT provides a platform to transmit the means for support all via a simple technology that a rapidly growing number of people across Africa possess – a mobile phone. The sustainability of such technology is exponential as more and more people on the continent own mobile phones in countries where increasing network coverage is boosting the ability to provide front and back end support to improving people’s livelihoods. Technology is bridging the gap between rural communities and their ability to build their livelihoods and increase their resilience towards coping within an ever-challenging environment.
Main image: Amy Christian/Oxfam