Ugandan developer creates app to boost agribusiness
By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda
A creative Ugandan developer is spearheading the adoption of technology in agribusiness with the development of an app that can be accessed and used while offline to ease communication between producers and other market players, making it ideal for most rural areas without power or internet connection.
Most Ugandans are said to be adopting mobile phones with statistics indicating that over 19.5 million people own mobile phones. However the, statistics are appalling when it comes to internet access and penetration in the country largely due to the undeveloped infrastructure from the service providers. According to UCC statistics, there are about 8.5 million internet users in Uganda with many of these users concentrated in urban areas. This leaves many people especially farmers from rural areas disadvantaged at accessing the numerous resources and benefits that comes with internet. This is the gap that FSH GROUP app comes in to fill according to the lead developer Rwemalla Paul.
“FSH GROUP app is not a new technology, but in as far as usability is concerned, the app is extending what has only been possible online (accessible only through internet bandwidth) to the mobile phone arena, via SMS,” explained Rwemalla. The developer working under FSH firm also noted that the app which is ideal for both private and public sector players is aimed at powering business to business communication as well as business to customers’ communication via SMS. The budding techie is inspired about empowering people and enabling use of text messages for societal transformation. “Many people have misused text messaging platform and have made many users wary of it. However, am inspired to try and change the tides through innovative projects that can power businesses and ultimately transform the society,” explained Rwemalla.
The FSH GROUP app which can be accessed through web portal and mobile app is already gaining ground especially among agricultural organizations. The organizations which are mainly engaged with smallholder farmers producing for export are already seeing the benefits for the app. Aidah Nakimera, the managing director of Fresh Foods, which is already using the app noted that they are saving a fortune through using the FSH. “We have over 500 farmers doing pineapples spread throughout Uganda. Initially we were using immense resources to reach out to these farmers. However, currently, we only initiate communication through phones using FSH.”
The app allows organizations registered with it to communicate one on one with their clients. It also allows one of general messaging popularly known as bulk messaging. The clients can also engage directly with their respective organizations. For instance a farmer in Kabaale may inquire directly from the main office in Kampala when the next consignment of inputs or harvests will be available. This communication is instant and allows the farmer or any other person using the service to send the message without internet access although the recipient client who in most cases will be in urban area will access the app through the internet and respond as well using the same.
Every client registered to the app has a unique code which he and his clients use to communicate among themselves. The client opens an account freely and registers his clients either using the web portal or app of FSH. However any download of the app costs Ush2000 and then the account is set freely. Members of the organization join the group sending JOIN Group Name to 8822. Members can send their queries to a clients’ platform and the client can reply them directly to their phones either as a group or an individual.
Rwemalla noted that the app took them about two months to develop and so far has over 2000 organizations using it. The team has upgraded the app to be used by almost all other service providers and organizations that conduct communication among members. “This product is custom-made for mass organizations such as churches, radio stations, schools and banks to be able to have a “talking relationship” with their affiliate members or stakeholders,” noted Rwemalla.