May 2, 2016
Category : 3-2-1 On Demand Messaging, HNI Initiatives
A group of leaders recently convened in Ghana with the goal of designing technology solutions to address the needs of Ghana’s agricultural sector. HNI was there, represented by Ghana Program Manager, Sarah Rogers.
The two-day AgriTech Exchange, held in Accra by Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC), brought together an assortment of agribusinesses, technology specialists, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. KIC is an initiative of Kosmos Energy Ghana.
The purpose was to explore viable business opportunities that are led by young entrepreneurs. KIC’s Chairman deemed the event one of “most important corporate events” that Kosmos has brought together.
HNI provided information and insight into technology solutions that have been applied in both agriculture and other sectors in Ghana and across Africa.
Throughout the brainstorming sessions, many challenges were discussed, including a lack of infrastructure, limited availability of market analyses, and difficulty for smallholder farmers to access capital. However, the challenge of access to accurate and timely information was raised by multiple participants.
Push channels, including radio and SMS, were mentioned as possible solutions, but many participants expressed frustration with these.
“I get a lot of push messages that I don’t need, and they are mostly not useful to me,” said Dr. Moses Ekow Ogoe, one of the participating agribusiness owners, who is also a farmer. Although the radio is widely used in Ghana, and often informative, “what they may discuss at that time may not be what I need.”
Enter the 3-2-1 Service
HNI’s 3-2-1 Service had just gone live in Ghana two days before the AgriTech Exchange event, giving participants an opportunity to call the Service and see exactly how an on-demand “pull channel” works with any mobile phone.
“Both agribusiness owners and entrepreneurs loved the simplicity of the Service and the fact that they could choose exactly what information they wanted,” said Rogers. “We see many opportunities to grow the 3-2-1 Service to include information and services that cater to the specific needs of Ghanaians”
Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI), the US international development consulting firm, helped the organize and facilitate the event.
“Sarah didn’t just demonstrate HNI’s DataWinners and 3-2-1 Service platforms,” said Anand Varghese of DAI, “she also helped the younger participants think through their business concepts.”
Another issue raised by the participants was difficulty finding financing for farmers and agribusiness. None of the of the providers at the event had a ready solution for this issue. In Malawi, however, HNI is developing a system in partnership with Airtel which uses the 3-2-1 Service to provide farmers with mobile money credit for agricultural inputs. If the solution is successful in Malawi, it can be replicated in Ghana with Ghanaian partners.
“One of the main goals of the AgriTech Exchange was to get young entrepreneurs excited about applying technology to the challenges facing Ghana’s agricultural sector,” said Mr. George Sarpong, the director of KIC. “I am pleased to have HNI at the event and especially for their contribution to identifying these challenges which present real technology-based business opportunities.”
The 3-2-1 Service is no silver bullet, and mobile technology cannot solve all of the agricultural sector’s challenges, but it’s a start to solving some of them. HNI is always looking for new ways to expand the Service and help people to improve their lives.