Messaging has grow to be one of the vital widespread strategies of communication, whether or not it’s via textual content messages or messaging apps.
However think about texting, getting info and suggestions out of your cellphone with out subscribing to web or utilizing airtime.
With a platform often called Arifu, farmers and rural entrepreneurs from Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Uganda are studying about funds and agronomy by texting an interactive Chatbot.
A chatbot is a pc program that simulates human dialog via voice instructions or textual content chats or each.
The chatbot responds to straightforward questions instantly, at any time of the day. If a learner must ask a query in the course of the night time, a chatbot can reply them inside seconds.
Chatbots have been utilized by firms similar to Starbucks the place prospects can order for a drink by way of messaging or voice, one can request a experience from Lyft by way of chat and you may get every kind of make-up tutorials in case you chat to Sephora on Kik messenger.
This has improved the effectivity of companies internationally via streamlining communication with shoppers.
In Africa, nevertheless, the expertise is reworking schooling, farming, and rural entrepreneurship by making it simple for organisations to go data and abilities to plenty via primary telephones.
One person, Janet Kanyua, is a 45-year-old mom and farmer who retains dairy cows, rears rooster, and grows beans and maize in Imenti Central, Meru.
She began the small scale farming actions after ending her secondary schooling.
As with most Kenya’s rural small-scale farmers, she usually struggled to maintain progress attributable to obstacles similar to restricted entry to finance to buy high quality farming inputs, restricted entry to data on good agricultural practices, and applicable applied sciences.
Then she found Arifu.
“I noticed a TV commercial a couple of manner the place I might find out about farming utilizing my primary cellphone by texting a query and I might get a reply. I dialed the quantity. I’ve educated with them for about three years. I find out about cows and rearing Kienyeji rooster,” she mentioned.
She began studying about animal husbandry and later superior to crop farming and funds.
Now Janet has turned her dairy farming right into a enterprise.
She has additionally purchased a chaff cutter machine to cut cow feed and now retains a superior cow breed which has elevated milk manufacturing substantively and sustainably, growing her family earnings.
“Earlier I didn’t learn about cross-breeding and that there’s a particular fertiliser for maize and one for cereals. I used to be simply shopping for DAP and mixing it with soil. I used to do blended farming however on my cellphone, I’ve discovered that it isn’t one of the best. I by no means used to make some huge cash,” she mentioned.
Based on Craig Heintzman, the co-founder and CEO of Arifu, many farm households and small scale rural entrepreneurs lack entry to the credible info and instruments they should handle and enhance their earnings.
However there’s a option to attain them: In Kenya particularly, 62 % of the nation’s inhabitants of 49 million have entry to cell phones. The draw back is thousands and thousands are with out the web nor smartphones and therefore can not entry the Net or social media to study new abilities.
That is the place Arifu is available in.
In 2015, Canadian Nationwide and Enterprise Graduate Heintzman launched a platform the place individuals entry free instructional content material from useful sources and credible organisations over any cell phone.
Mr Heintzman and his staff developed a easy SMS chatbot accessible by any cellphone available on the market by way of SMS, WhatsApp, and Fb Messenger.
“In case you create a web site you’ll nonetheless not attain them as they don’t have a pc or a smartphone. Arifu is participating, entertaining, and free so individuals can afford to make use of it,” he mentioned.
The corporate is headquartered in Nairobi.
In an interview with Digital Enterprise, Mr Heintzman mentioned the platform is purposely constructed to show individuals tips on how to clear up their issues and study on matters similar to monetary literacy and farming methods similar to which cow breed fits their area and tips on how to attain larger markets.
Arifu has labored with banks, cellular operators, agribusinesses, Microfinance Establishments (MFIs), and NGOs similar to Syngenta, Mobigrow Kenya Business financial institution (KCB), Fairness Financial institution, Digi Farm by Safaricom, Vodacom, CGAP, TechnoServe, and the Kenyan authorities to unfold abilities coaching and product info to the underserved section of the inhabitants.
He mentioned the organisations pay for the platform subscriptions and academic content material creation.
The content material is then delivered to the Arifu chatbox in order that it’s free for many who wish to study abilities and knowledge.
Content material may be in any language that may be delivered via a cell phone. In Kenya, Kiswahili and English are the languages principally used on the platform.
“These organisations have an curiosity in educating the inhabitants on tips on how to develop their enterprise however they’re discovering that to try this face-to-face may be very costly and onerous to scale up. Some populations are additionally onerous to achieve,” he mentioned.
5 years into the market, the enterprise is already having encouraging outcomes
The platform has helped 1.four million individuals principally farmers and small companies within the rural areas study on digital monetary providers, commercialization, tips on how to save, mortgage services, and agronomy.
Based on a examine carried out on 300 farmers with Mobigrow Kenya Business financial institution (KCB), Arifu stories that 81 % of farmers reported improved crop manufacturing, and 73 % of farmers reported a rise in earnings.
“Amongst that group, 85 % mentioned the rationale was as a result of elevated quantity of crops bought. For 80 % of the farmers, their expertise utilizing Arifu was the primary time they’ve been capable of entry this sort of info (agronomy and monetary literacy),” mentioned Mr. Heintzman.
The corporate was just lately acknowledged in the course of the Disruptive Agricultural Expertise (DAT) Problem and Convention 2019 and has gained many awards within the expertise area.
What has shocked him? I ask.
“By determining the behavioral science and the psychology of studying for an interactive chat we had been capable of unlock plenty of studying potential via primary interplay on interactive SMS.”
“We discovered that if we ship tales about individuals and their challenges and the way they discovered abilities and succeeded via interactive textual content messaging we had been capable of see some actually sturdy outcomes and interactions,” he mentioned.
Within the subsequent 5 years, Mr Heintzman hopes to get 10 million learners on the platform and be capable to scale throughout Africa and likewise different markets in Asia, Latin America, and the Center East.