Mobile phone applications launched in Uganda


A suite of five mobile phone applications was launched by search engine giant Google, in partnership with the Grameen Foundation and cell phone service provider MTN Uganda in June. The initiative is aimed at revolutionising the lives of millions of farmers and small entrepreneurs in Uganda.

Known as Application Laboratory (AppLab), the suite uses Google SMS Search technology and the MTN network. It includes Google SMS Tips, which allows users to have an experience similar to a web search; Farmer’s Friend, a searchable database with both agricultural advice and targeted weather forecasts; Health Tips, which provides sexual and reproductive health information, paired with Clinic Finder, which helps locate nearby health clinics and services; and Google Trader, which matches buyers and sellers of agricultural produce and commodities as well as other products.

Grameen Foundation, a global nonprofit organization that helps the world’s poorest people access financial services and technological solutions, developed the suite of services in 2007. It is the most comprehensive suite of cell applications to be offered in Africa, and Grameen intends to launch similar services in other African countries.

The services are designed to work with basic mobile phones to reach the broadest possible audience.  A user enters a text query and Google returns relevant answers after searching a database. Users can access the services quickly and privately at any time to search relevant content on-demand in the same way that a user accesses the internet. Google says the scheme could help about nine million Ugandans who have mobile phones but do not have internet access.

AppLab Uganda, located in Kampala and directed by the Grameen Foundation’s Technological Center, focuses on creating opportunities for poor people to share and access essential information through innovative uses of mobile tele-phony.

The information in the applications was developed in collaboration with key local partners. The Busoga Rural Open Source Development Initiative (BROSDI) provides locally relevant agricultural information created and tested by smallholder farmers and designed to meet their needs. App-Lab worked with Marie Stopes Uganda, the local affiliate of the international sexual and reproductive health NGO, and Straight Talk Foundation, a Ugandan nonprofit that specializes in health communication, to develop the health component.

Using the Google Trader application, local buyers and sellers are able to broaden their trading networks and reduce their transaction costs. AppLab worked with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, TechnoServe and SNV Netherlands Development Organization to develop the concept with banana farmers and traders in southwestern Uganda.

Source:  The Whitaker Group, Registered Foreign Agent For Uganda


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