Mobile-phone companies and aid agencies have talked for years about deploying feature phones, coupled with basic text information services about the weather and crop pricing, to empower poor people in undeveloped parts of the world. Now, the Grameen Foundation is taking that idea to the opposite, high-tech extreme.
About 400 so-called "community knowledge workers" in Uganda are using Android phones loaded with an open-source data-collection application that feeds data into Salesforce. The phones are powered by batteries that can be recharged in a variety of ways, including solar and bicycle.
Developed by the Seattle-based Grameen Foundation Technology Center, the project offers select farmers loans to buy an Android phone loaded with information about when and how to plant crops, care for farm animals and find markets for products.
Those farmers, whom Grameen calls community knowledge workers, then serve as experts in their villages. Other people turn to them with questions about crops or farm animals, and the knowledge workers find answers in information loaded on the phones. The knowledge workers also gather information about the farmers they talk to.