Why Mobile Technology is Important to Rural African Communities


Mobile technology is at the heart of Africa’s digital journey thanks to its ability to provide communities with improved work and economic improvements. A great example of how access to online resources is The Haller Foundation’s award-winning mobile app — Haller Farmers

To unpack this further, IT News Africa’s Jenna Delport spoke to Joseph Baraka, Community Project Coordinator at the Haller Foundation in Kenya. Here’s what transpired:

Africa faces one of the biggest digital divides in the world — with that in mind, how does access to mobile technology allow rural communities to thrive in an increasingly innovative era?

The use of mobile phones has increased drastically in Africa in the past decade. Many mobile phones companies have come in handy with cheap and affordable mobile phones. That said many community members have been able to access vital services like mobile banking ‘M-PESA’ for cashless money transfer, agricultural, marketing, weather advisory apps for farmers. 

It is this advancement in technology that has led community members to thrive in most aspects hence improved the livelihood and living standards of community members.

Despite farming being a fundamental part of society, training and education on sustainable agriculture are neglected and underfunded at the government level. Have apps — like Haller Farmers — acted as a good solution to this issue? 

Yes, this is because the Haller Farmers App offers comprehensive and practical knowledge at the touch of a button and also at very minimal cost. Once downloaded, selected content is available offline and also has a ‘chat’ section where farmers can ask questions in regards to farming and get feedback in real time.

Other than helping African farmers improve their agricultural productivity, what kind of benefits does mobile technology have on rural communities?

Mobile technology has brought about Mobile banking services like ‘M-PESA’ which helps community members transfer and receive money at their convenience. It is also safe and reliable for farmers since they don’t have to carry cash around with them once they sell their produce.

What is the main challenge when it comes to mobile technology in rural communities and how can this be overcome?

The main challenge is the lack of electricity to charge the mobile phones thus the need to equip community members with some charging solutions like solar charging units or solar phones. Poor network, illiteracy, poverty, and lack of compatible mobile gadgets like smartphones are also issues. 

It could be argued that the increasing adoption of mobile technology across the continent is leading the way to a more innovative Africa — where do you see the future of mobile technology going and why?

Mobile phone technology has and is continuing to change the living standard of many communities members given that in rural Africa it was hard for community members to communicate and had to walk long distances in order to do achieve that but with the emergency of mobile technology, communication has become easy and cost effective given that sending a text message “SMS” is as low as 1kenyan shilling per sms hence cost effective. It has also provided easy banking options with most of the banks having a mobile phone app hence reduced transportation cost of going to the bank and also time spent queuing to be served in the bank. Mobile technology has also made life easier for scholars given that they can Google and research for data related to their studies. 

To find out more you can get in touch with Joseph at joseph@haller.org.uk

Staff writer