Title Translation: (Hello, How Much for the Potatos?)
by : Joel T. Fagsao
The mobile phone, the Internet, TV and radio are tools that can be harnessed to empower the common folks or the masa. At this point, I focus on the mobile phone or cell phone as the gadget to talk about in this column. This gadget- (show me your cell phone and I’ll tell you who you are) has become affordable to almost every rung of society. Bright, creative minds only need to look on how this Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tool can be put to productive use.
After all, we are a nation hooked on text messaging. In this land of “Tao Ako, Hindi Igorot”- courtesy of Candy Pangilinan; let’s try to explore what else we can do with our text messaging facility. Of course, the Exponent’s “Commentext” corner is one good reason to buy a new SIM pack and spend our one peso. Thus, if you wish to damage a reputation, barya is all you need. I wish lakay Greg should publish numbers of all those who send messages to the Commentex corner. In this way, all those who are put on the chopping board will have their chance to clear the air with the text sender- mano a mano.
But then, this will be discussed some other time. I would rather, that we focus on what else we can be done to make that mobile phone (that has seen better days) to good use.
TEXT MESSAGING HELPS INDIAN FARMERS
In Benguet, the two way radio was the source of information for price updates, pricing tips that served as a guide to the farmers. It is then not a surprise if Elf trucks laden with vegetables rush to the La Trinidad Trading post to take advantage of a good price for vegetables. Still, not all farmers have the facility nor can they afford a Motorola two way radio. Today, the cell phone has become affordable. We just need to work on a platform similar to the Indian experience.
Let me quote from this article published at www.inclusivebusiness.org: In London, global information service provider Thomson Reuters presented Reuters Market Light (RML), an inclusive business initiative that provides farmers with affordable and up-to-date information on crop prices, weather forecasts, and other agriculture-related news via text messages to mobile phones. This fee-based initiative makes available weather reports over a 50-mile radius and local crop prices within a 5-hour journey in the subscriber’s local language, RML helps farmers decide which crops to plant, achieve better yields and secure better prices in local and regional markets. Reuters’ commercial initiative is fully aligned with its expertise in providing “critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, scientific, healthcare and media markets.” Before the introduction of the RML service, farmers had very limited information on current and local market prices for their crops. They also lacked timely information that would help them decide the best time to harvest their crops. In turn, this hindered market efficiency, reduced yields, increased wastage and had an overall negative effect upon a farmer’s earning and livelihood. If we still hear of our farmers dumping their carrots or other crops on the Halsema Highway (because “bagsak presyo din cabbage..” ) there is still this lack of information on prices of vegetables for our local farmers.
If there is such a thing similar to the service provided for Indian farmers, then this is a good example to copy. Could there possibly be an agency that can help our farmers. Could the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics work this out? Or perhaps, could the DA try out a localized service to our farmers – on vegetable pricing and weather forecasts (sourced from PAG-ASA))? I looked online and found the website of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics at www.bas.gov.ph/bms.php. The site publishes monitored prices of vegetables in Manila. This can be a good start, but most farmers may not be aware that their mobile phone can access the Internet. Prices of vegetables are also brought to our TV screens courtesy of our roving palengke queens who are on a price watch.
Be it GMA or ABS CBN, their morning shows provide price updates on vegetables. So where can we possibly start? Could the BAS extend its service by sending via text message its price updates on vegetables? If this entails cost to the agency, then they can charge for a subscription fee similar to the system in place for Indian farmers. The Indian farmers subscribe for a fee to the service and are regularly updated on prices and the weather- right on their cell phones. If this is not in the pipeline yet, then entrepreneurs should make their move. A localized price monitoring team targeting specific produce can be put into business. You can explore these possibilities with existing mobile companies. I guess, if I am not mistaken, the mobile company has a share from the revenues for an information service provided by a third party. Just like Chika. When you send message to a mobile phone via the Internet, the recipient is charged P2.50 if a reply is sent. So there, the possibilities are endless. We just need to expand our imagination and think of ways where we can use ICT to possibly eradicate poverty. After all, one of the factors why we cannot move forward is the lack of information.