Connecting the unconnected through innovative tech

| 4 February 2016

By Myolisi Sikupela

A recent visit to an Eastern Cape village got me thinking about how small communities and entrepreneurs in these areas can take advantage of the tech boom or use technology for their daily endeavours. There are vast possibilities available through mobile Internet connectivity including business opportunities and services to better their lives.

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With Southern Africa’s connection numbers set to hit about 150 million mobile subscriptions by 2021, according to Ericsson Mobility, it’s time for the opportunity to be fully harnessed. Here are some of the most innovative uses of mobile tech tailored for rural communities:

Sowing self-sufficiency through SMS
Hello Tractor is a practical tech solution to an age old problem. Through SMS, small scale farmers can gain access to farm machinery without needing to take out huge loans to acquire it. It also means not having to pay for unused machinery out of season.

Small-scale farmers send an SMS to Hello Tractor who locate nearby GPS supported ‘Smart Tractor’ owners who can lease out their machinery. Once the farmer’s finished using the machinery, payment is made to the Smart Tractor owner. These tractors are equipped with various attachments for the different stages of the production cycle and different types of crops. They can also accurately pinpoint locations and gather other data, like usage and market trends.

Click for financial advice
Riovic is a new financial advisor platform started last year. Though it has great potential to assist small communities by opening their thinking to financial advisors, using Riovic requires data and isn’t as simple as an SMS. Users download the app or visit the website and type in their query. The platform assigns the request to relevant service providers in Riovic’s network and facilitates virtual consultations.

A service like Riovic, given that it’s built to cater for the small business market, can have great traction with small-time entrepreneurs by remotely and physically linking users with professional advisors on request. Users also have a platform to make long-term investments in assets, and access affordable insurance.

Fuss-free access to capital
For aspiring business owners in rural areas, easily accessible information and financial support is critical. Complicated processes at banks can be a challenge for these entrepreneurs. Through JUMO World, borrowers can connect with investors and through a data-driven system the best rate and credit candidate can be matched. There’s no need for the user to go to the bank or even have an existing bank account to apply. Users open a mobile wallet through their service provider and select JUMO services to apply for a loan.

According to JUMO World, there are over 170 million mobile wallet accounts in Africa, with most people having no access to traditional financial services. The company claims about 80% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack basic financial services such as loans, insurance and savings. With JUMO, accessing funds or creating opportunities for grassroots companies in Africa is in the palm of your hand.

What these platforms show is that innovation isn’t always about never-before-seen tech, but rather about using existing tech in novel ways to solve problems.

This original thought leadership piece is brought to you by Nashua.

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