Nokia Life Tools delivers customized information to farmers in India and Indonesia based on their location, language and crops. The company hopes to expand the service to Africa in 2010.
As a result of feedback from users in rural areas, the mobile phone manufacturer Nokia has developed an information service to provide farmers with agricultural advice, weather forecasts and market data. The company developed the service, known as Nokia Life Tools, after a consultation with users who said they would be interested in a service that delivered up to date, relevant information directly to their mobile phones. They were willing to pay a small subscription fee for a service that provided information to meet their specific needs.
‘Most farmers, and other people living outside the main urban areas, are very comfortable using mobile phones,’ says Hemant Madan, director of product and portfolio management in emerging markets services at Nokia. ‘As the penetration rates of mobiles increase in non-urban areas, we have to serve the needs of consumers and this was the service that many people were demanding.’
The service was tested in one state in India in early 2009, then expanded as a commercial enterprise the following June to provide agricultural information to customers in 18 Indian states. It was then launched in Indonesia in November that year.
Farmers in India pay 60 rupees (US$1.30) per month and receive automatic updates every day. When a farmer subscribes, which can be done directly from their mobile phone, he or she gives their location, which crops they grow and their preferred language. ‘We are able to get the location information either from the network data or by asking for the postal code,’ explains Hemant. ‘Based on that, we can ask the customer which crops they are interested in. We have a database of all the crops that grow in the country and which ones are relevant to a particular postal code.’
The user gets a filtered list of crops to choose from – up to a maximum of three – and then selects from a list of 11 languages for customers in India. In Indonesia, the service is provided in Bahasa, the most common language. The service starts to deliver the daily information directly to the application on the customer’s mobile phone. The messages are sent via the SMS network because that system has the widest reach, including to rural areas, but they do not arrive in the phone’s usual SMS inbox. Instead, the customer reads the details from the menu of the Life Tools application, which uses Java to display the text in easy to read forms and tables.
However, the service is currently only available on 11 phone models produced by Nokia, but the company continue to expand the range of compatible devices.
Farmers have responded well to the service. Most appreciate the fact that the information is customized to their location and crops. Early feedback from subscribers indicates that some farmers enjoy increased bargaining power from having better market data, while others have used the weather information to protect their crops. Others have learned about new types of fertilizers or seeds, which have increased productivity.
The information provided by the service is also relevant to the season and to the stage of crop growth. Getting the information at the right time – on how to protect a crop, which crops to grow in that area, how to treat the soil between crop cycles – helps farmers to make the right decisions about what to plant and when, and to reduce losses and optimize income. But a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to provide this level of personalized data to every subscriber.
‘For the agricultural service in India alone, we handle about 10,000 pieces of information a day,’ says Hemant. ‘Government agencies and businesses supply the raw information. Another partner company then processes the details, tags each piece of information with location or crop, and an editorial desk translates that into news feeds which are then matched to the subscribers’ profiles.’
‘For example,’ adds Hemant, ‘a farmer in the Indian state of Maharashtra who grows potatoes would get the price of potatoes from the three most relevant nearby markets, rather than the price from somewhere far away like Delhi. But for a farmer growing flowers, it might well be interesting to get the prices from a larger city market that sets the prices for the rest of the country. From the information we gather, we are able to determine the most relevant markets for the crops that the farmers are growing and provide the information accordingly.’
As well as the agricultural service, Nokia Life Tools also offers an education service, which provides English language learning, general knowledge and exam preparation tips. And there is an entertainment service giving news, astrological reports and sports coverage. ‘The education service aims to provide more of a long-term foundation for personal improvement,’ explains Hemant, ‘while the agricultural services can have a direct economic impact for the customer in a relatively short space of time.’ Nokia is currently looking at ways to expand their service and hope to introduce it to more Asian countries, and into Africa, later in 2010.
Nokia Life Tools
Nokia Life Tools agricultural service