Gov’t buys 35,000 phones to boost e-soko project

Government through the e-soko project will next month buy 35,000 mobile phones for farmers, a move that is meant to bridge the information gap between farmers and buyers.The e-soko is a project designed to give farmers access to up dated market price information for particular commodities.
Technology can be used to boost agriculture sector.
Technology can be used to boost agriculture sector.

Government through the e-soko project will next month buy 35,000 mobile phones for farmers, a move that is meant to bridge the information gap between farmers and buyers.
The e-soko is a project designed to give farmers access to up dated market price information for particular commodities.

Through public private partnership, talks are in the final stages with MTN Rwanda to procure the phones.

The e-Rwanda coordinator, Wilson Muyenzi said that at least one cooperative in every district has been identified to benefit from the project.

Muyenzi said that government will pay 50 percent of the cost, MTN 25 percent and  beneficiaries 25 percent of the phone prices.

“The whole idea is to empower farmers with market knowledge give them bargaining power to make better decisions and improve on their income, Muyenzi said.

Farmers will be able to call and identify profitable places to sell their commodities instead of dealing with middlemen who dictate the prices and in most cases exploit them.
Muyenzi said that in the first six months, farmers will have preferential calling rates to create awareness of the system and know the power of reaching out to buyers.

Currently farmers have been accessing market prices, only through text messages where farmers would request for prices from a particular market and for specific commodity, but with the mobile phone it will be interactive voices to help farmers who cannot write or read.

Before, market information used to be gathered by employees from the Ministry of Agriculture across the country and they would be sent to Kigali to be computerised.

“The system at the ministry of agriculture was too manual and slow because by the time prices are computed things have changed at the market,” he noted.

The success of the project will depend on the number of subscribers. The project targets at least 5 percent of the population to have access to the system. Muyenzi emphasised that the system will benefit both farmers and government to monitor food prices for food security.

The e-soko project was supposed to be on internet but more Rwandans use mobile phones more than the internet. The development of e-soko and procuring of 35,000 mobile phones is expected to cost $175,000.

“The subscription rate is at 20 percent of the total population, and the e-soko project will grow as the subscription rate increase that’s why government came up with a second option,” he added.

Government targets 40 percent subscription by the end on next year and 50 percent in 2012.

The e-soko project was a result of the social assessment study that identified the kind of information needed by majority of Rwandans.

In the pipeline e-soko targets electronic market, a platform to sell and buy different commodities, but it will depend on the national fibre-optic backbone with high speed connectivity and later electronic payment.

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