How to design for mobile in emerging markets

Frog has created a user-centred toolkit, which designers can use to design mobile products for small hold farmers and help improve their prospects.

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A user-centred design kit endorsed by mobile networks all over the world has been created as part of a global initiative to improve small hold farmers’ access to critical information in emerging markets.

Product design and strategy consultancy Frog has worked alongside GSMA – an organisation representing 800 mobile operators – to deliver the “toolkit for mobile agriculture”, which has been funded by the UK Government-funded mNutrition Initiative.

What does the toolkit do?

The toolkit has been designed to equip mobile operators and service providers with the tools and best practice information they need to create meaningful and commercially successful mobile agriculture (or mAgri) products.

Recognising that 47% of the total labour force in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will be mobile-connected by 2020, the GSMA sought the services of Frog to help it leverage the sector in a way that could benefit farmers.

User adoption a problem in the past

There have been many forays into the mAgri in the past, but low user adoption has been a common problem, partly due to unique problems presented in emerging markets such as lower literacy rates and levels of technical understanding, as well as issues around seasonal income.

Frog looked at past schemes and worked with farmers in Africa and Asia over the course of a year to gain as much insight as possible. They also worked with six mobile network operators across both continents.

Key findings

Key findings inside the toolkit include mobile operator Dialog in Sri Lanker, which found that some farmers find it difficult to trust network operators to pass on information and difficult to trust neighbouring farmers, whom they see only as competitors.

Dialog also found that trust could be built with farmers quickly by validating information with as many sources as possible – such as TV and radio.

Collectively lessons such as these have fed into a series of modules, which take designers through a step-by-step guide instructing how to design for mAgri.

These include Plan, Learn, Create, Develop, Maintain. You can download the tool kit and its modules here.

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