Rants and musings of Paul Scott
Paul Scott on 2011-01-21 13:29:50 Comments (1) Tweet thisUsing mobile phones and data mashups for sustainable agriculture
I wrote an article about this a few years back, but would like to just put down some thoughts here too. @andyhadfield asked on twitter about ideas for sustainable development in rural areas in Africa using mobile/web/tech and reminded me of a set of ideas that I had.
1. Use mobile data to get remote sensing reports to subsistence farmers. Remote sensing data coupled with some simple GIS systems could easily be used to help subsistence farmers make the best use of their lands. With accurate data on things like chlorophyll flourescence, farmers can be informed of where to fertilise, irrigate etc without wastage. Chlorophyll flourescence can be used to quickly determine the overall health of a plant, and preventative measures can be quickly taken to rectify any problems. Data can be made available quite easily through simple text messages or in a more realtime scenario by XMPP push to the devices or kiosk internet stations.
2. Agriculture eLearning - eLearning systems (like the Chisimba eLearning system) can be used to provide basic HOWTO's and techniques shared between farmers and experts from around the world. This is especially important for non-farmers like school feeding schemes, that could benefit from learning on their mobile phone how to grow vegetables for their communities etc.
3. eCommerce - I have posted quite a few examples of mobile based eCommerce, and again, it applies. You could quite easily use a phone based system to create marketplaces for goods like fruit and vegetables, as well as crafts and curios made locally. Payment can be made by mobile payment solutions or by a bartering system where goods are assigned virtual currency values for fairness.
4. Use local communities to build infrastructure - This was a result of another suggestion by @dazMSmith, but the mobile phone companies and others could contract locals to build cell towers and other infrastructure to boost local economies. Once connectivity is in place, more can happen (see above)
5. Deploy wireless networks with backhauls - using very cheap hardware, it is easy enough to deploy wireless zones over large areas of agricultural land. The advantage is that most will be line of sight, which makes for cheap and easy to build/maintain networks. IP phones, eLearning and eCommerce would follow quickly.
There you go. 5 simple ideas that could make a huge impact. All mobile, all do-able with minimal resources and effort. So what is stopping you?