Bringing you to speed; the mint of the outcome of the first process, showed that farmers need to have a say in deciding the price of their produce. They need to be able to tell middlemen to buy or forfeit the produce to the next buyer whenever the middleman’s doesn’t make them happy – rather than the middleman telling them to let rot or sell low. For this to be achieved, the farmers had to have alternatives. Farmer had to have knowledge of the market. Farmers had to have the competence to market. And lastly farmers had to have alternative contacts of buyers.
This was valuable knowledge; it meant that we would be able to start with the need to identify, select or design a plausible solutions. Some of the answers sought included those to questions like; what could be done to bring about these attributes, what could be the cost and can such means open unlimited access to markets? Decomposing to create By the look of things, the need was clear. Pieces to the solution occurred. But the need to decompose what we had, to create solutions to need was evident.
Three technologies were considered:
Telecentres had the problem of being costly, overly centralized, and being mainly rural – what was needed was low cost, convenience and presence for use in both farming rural and consuming urban. But the telecentre had something of value; belongingness, social solidarity and social cohesion. These attributes would be needed in order to build trust and cooperation among small-scale farmers and consumers. So – the answer was to down think telecentres and the supportive technology, so that they would easily be created anywhere and reduce their centralized colour.
The web is global and yet at the same time local – this was the attribute that would be needed most to give the farmer access to unlimited markets. In fact, it would also allow farmers access to end consumers, in the long-run; thus creating a zero middleman chain. It would bring cost effectiveness and accessibility to the system. But it was also needed for data warehousing and data mining. Even then, to access the web a computer was needed - that’s why a reduced telecentre was still to appear in the new picture.
The lead technology would neither be telecentres nor the web – but it come to be the mobile phone. Mobile devices are already known for their low power, voice and text capabilities that suit the oral traditions of Africa. The marriage between web and mobile devices would actually bring convenience, reliability, accuracy, real-time and personalized information access.
The merger of the three technologies would thus bring about global, communal, local and individual mobility and benefits to the market. By now, the start would be seen to be clear as was the means to do it. But this was not sufficient to set into motion. It needed to be clear, what roles of middlemen are substitutable or eliminatable, if the technologies were to be adapted for the purpose – this would later go ahead to define the value proposition of the system. How would the technologies be interpreted in terms of product line and products?
What overall slogan would be adapted? Recomposing to serve Primarily, the middleman: gives information – the system will reach the global, community, local and individuals for markets and market information; links – the system connects the farmer directly to the consumers and vice versa and to other service providers; communicates offers – the farmers and the consumer would be able to upload and access each other offers, negotiate and adjust offers accordingly; finds and communicates contacts – the system is enabled to do this function, etc. It would thus be summarized that the value proposition of this system is; convenient access to reliable, accurate, real time markets and market information at affordability cost.
The foregoing functions would later be translated into two product lines; the News Alert and Aatch. The News alert were designed with two services; farmers’ and buyers’ market update alerts, farmers’ and buyers’ supplier update alerts while Match product line was designed with three services; buyers’ and sellers’ ads posting, buyer–seller matching and buyer and seller exchange groups; in the form of SMS mailing lists. The services would be accessible both by web and by user mobile phones in order to achieve the adapted slogan; let every hut smile, which also serves as the driving vision for the system. Looking ahead with the task The turning point for this process was clear; no single technology would completely give the answer to the marketing challenges faced by small scale farmers – ruling out adapting the approach of “either – or” and adapting that of “both – and”. Mobile devices, the web and reduced telecentres, were thus adapted as means to support the two product lines that would be used to eliminate middlemen in the food supply chain – so as to end hunger and poverty, which was our starting point. The process also zeroed down to the driving slogan: Let every hut smile.
Social investor of this process is CTA and implementer is UgaBYTES.