Orange: Bringing technology to African farmers

    How can an illiterate farmer in Africa learn how to use a mobile phone to better grow their crops?

    Through a tech-savvy local agent equipped with a smartphone that belongs to the same community, according to Denis Guibard, vice president for sustainable products and services at French telecommunications giant Orange, which under its corporate social responsibility program develops applications for GSM mobile phones which offer information about market prices and tips on how to improve crop yields, among other services.

    “The end user [is] maybe someone which is not literate, or digitally literate,” Guibard told Devex President Raj Kumar on the sidelines of World Convergences Forum 2013 in Paris. Orange launched in 2011 its “Orange for Development” scheme in Africa, where the firm seeks to promote ICT among the population to encourage sustainable development while increasing higher penetration of mobile services.

    He explained that Orange thus works with a “local agent” from the local community and therefore trusted by its members to send the text messages to the farmers.

    “If you send an SMS to a farmer who has been farming for generations telling him that he has to change, who are you to do that?” noted Guibard. “But if it goes through a [local] person … that is trusted by the community, it makes a lot of change and a bigger impact.”

    Watch the above video for more of our interview with the sustainable products and services at the French consortium.

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    About the author

    • Carlos Santamaria

      Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.