The paper describes a collection of initiatives delivering support via mobile phones to small enterprises, small farms, and the self-employed. Using a review of 26 examples of such services currently operational in Africa, the analysis identifies five functions of mobile livelihood services: Mediated Agricultural Extension, Market Information, Virtual Marketplaces, Financial Services, and Direct Livelihood Support. It discusses the current reliance of such systems on the SMS channel, and considers their role in supporting vs. transforming existing market structures.
This brief paper does not present an evaluation of the effectiveness of any particular service, nor does it venture an assessment of the suitability or potential effectiveness of different kinds of services. Instead it provides an overview of the range of services currently available, and, more importantly; it identifies what kinds of changes (to the enterprise or to its environment) the designers of the services intend to bring about. The task of making these intended changes explicit serves as a bridge to considering these services in light of our interdisciplinary understanding of the role of mobile communication (and ICTs) in society and in economic development.
This Mircosoft paper quotes FARA's Innovative Farmer Advisory services inventory as an excellent review.
Mobile-Based Livelihood Services In Africa: Pilots And Early Deployments
Jonathan Donner / Technology for Emerging Markets Group / Microsoft Research India / At / Conference on Development And Information Technologies. Mobile Phones An Internet In Latin America And Africa: What Benefits For The Most Disadvantaged? / October 23-24 2009 / Castelldefels / Barcelona / 19 pp. Abstract