From sending information to collecting data
2017 was one of many defining years for Esoko. The company incubated and launched Tulaa as a separate business – an m-commerce platform connecting smallholder farmers to financial services in Ghana and Kenya. At the same time Insyt was launched as an Esoko product – mobile and web data collection tools combined with field deployment to improve the way organizations profile and target beneficiaries in rural areas.
The data collection technology (Insyt) was built as a natural next-step from Esoko’s Market Information Service (MIS) platform, which enables businesses and organizations to communicate and transact with smallholder farmers more efficiently. This development was also fueled by a high demand for data collection technology from social protection and agriculture programs across Africa. One of such projects was the Planting for food and jobs’ program under Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, under which Esoko collected biometric data and mapped farms for over 35,000 farmers.
Profiling farmers has always been central to our MIS operations, in order to properly target and send relevant content – we can’t send accurate weather information to a farmer without knowing details such as his/her phone number and location. With Insyt, our aim is to improve this service through additional features such as biometric data collection, GIS farm mapping and real-time reporting amongst others.
Overcoming challenges in providing information services to farmers
We have faced, learnt from and overcome many challenges in our 10 years of existence – which is why we are still here today. One of such challenges regards adoption of technology by illiterate farmers – a problem which we mitigated by introducing a call centre and voice-sms service, both in local languages.
Another had to do with difficulties in getting farmers to willingly pay for information services themselves, which previously led to the company’s over-dependence on development projects. For this, innovative sustainable strategies such as the Vodafone Farmers’ Club, were implemented and farmers are now paying as low as 50 cents per month to enjoy our services.
Although in 2017 the company refocused its’ business strategy towards data collection, till date we continue to service smallholder farmers with market prices, weather alerts and agronomic advice via SMS, voice-SMS and the call centre. We have enumerators out on the field collecting market prices on 58 commodities across 53 markets nation-wide in Ghana.
In addition to this, we have similar MIS projects running in Mexico, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi. Our product road map for 2018 also includes upgrades to this service.
Innovate or die
Innovation is key to a company’s survival in the ICT4D space. In pursuing this we have made our fair share of mistakes, learnt from them and improved our product offerings along the way.
In the spirit of innovation, our product map for 2018 includes a GreenCard registry. With this platform our vision is to create a central registry for rural Africa, where service providers can plug in and provide essential services to people in rural communities.
Esoko has evolved over the years but remains committed to improving the welfare of rural people and communities through mobile technology.