In Rural India, Mobile Phones Put Power of Information in the Hands of Farmers082609_nokia_ag

Following a nationwide launch this summer of a program called Nokia Life Tools (NLT), India's farmers can use their mobile phones to access tailored information to help them grow, harvest and sell their crops and manage their livestock. "There is no reason why farmers should not be as successful as fishermen" who have been benefitting from a similar program for a number of years, says Ravi Bapna, associate professor of information systems at the Carlson School of Management in Minnesota and executive director of the Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy at Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB).

His comments appear in an article on the India Knowledge at Wharton web site titled, "Dial 'M' for 'Mackerel': Can New Mobile Services Promote Economic Empowerment?"

"Farmers find that getting prices daily on their mobile phones reduces their dependency on agents for basic information," says Jawahar Kanjilal, Nokia's global head of emerging market services. "With greater awareness of market conditions, there is newfound confidence in their negotiations with agents."

As for Nokia and others in the mobile phone industry, it's no surprise why they are attracted to an emerging economy such as India. Mobile phones now easily outnumber fixed lines in many developing countries, spurring telecom providers to roll out mobile services tailored to these customers. One of the most striking examples is mobile banking in Africa, particularly after the success of mobile payment services like M-Pesa in Kenya, a country counting some 15 million handsets today compared with only 15,000 10 years ago. India is one of the fastest-growing telecom markets in the world, "making it a hotbed for ideas about consumption and motivation for mobility," says Kanjilal.