Showcasing applications that have found relevant problems to solve in our society and that deploy corresponding solutions is why we started this series. Or as Hillary Clinton said while speaking on the Apps 4 Africa competition, we are showcasing apps that are “lending [an] innovative spirit and creativity to the enterprise of building a better future for [our] communities.” One such app is iCow.
iCow, an agricultural information service based in Kenya, is a subscription service that uses a mobile number or code to help farmers enhance productivity.The app emerged as the winner of the first Apps 4 Africa competition held in July 2010 where the team won $5,000. The competition, funded by the United States government, demanded that developers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania build a mobile application that would be widely accessible and easy to use. Each application had to offer a unique approach to improving life in the regions and the aim was to unite the brightest African developers with people who could benefit most from innovative mobile technology.
Problem It Solves
iCow is an application that helps cow farmers maximize breeding potential by easily and efficiently tracking the fertility cycle of their animals. Before the application was available, most dairy farmers would resorted to traditional ways of milking their cows and keeping dates in their heads. As such, productivity was stemmed, especially because there was no organized means of support or innovation which could be deployed to boost dairy production and to enhance the health of the farm animals.
iCow is a voice-based application, which means farmers do not have to own a special mobile device to use it. All they would need is an ordinary phone with which they can dial a toll-free number and eventually dial specific but simple codes for special products subscription.
The use of MPESA in the advent of mobile money in Kenya also makes it an easier proposition to consider for the farmers. iCow has partnered with Safaricom to help more farmers access the application, boosting the provision of information and professional advice to farmers based on rearing of their animals.
Developed in 2010 by Charles Kithika, iCow helps dairy farmers manage their cows more sustainably. The application offers value added services such as Mashauri-Farmer Tips, which upon subscription grants the farmers the opportunity to receive three SMS tips per week at a token fee. It also offers other products such as a Kalenda, a cow calendar which also makes available tips customized to each specific cow, calf or heifer. Another great product on offer is the Vetenari, which helps to find the nearest vet doctor or artificial inseminator. All of these products are made available at a token price of three Kenyan shillings per SMS for respective products. iCow is currently available in English and Kiswahili.
With the robust nature of products on offer and a continuous sense of innovation inspired by real problems and an efficient rapport with the dairy farmers, iCow is developing into a great all-in-one solution. This could be adopted as a total package template to be implemented across Africa, South America, and the more agricultural parts of Europe and the United States.
Offering video tutorials, a facebook page, a blog and other technical outlets, it is hoped that such outlets are also made available in the local languages with support bases on ground to assist farmers in their use. This would ultimately increase their interests or, at the least, transform into a hunger to get their kids educated so that they can make the most of such facilities and somehow build and sustain a potentially lasting family business.
iCow prides itself as being the farmer’s best friend. By creating conversations and solutions around dairy farming, enhanced animal health and farmer enlightenment, it has produced a great mix of innovation blended with the effort to solve a very relevant problem in the Kenyan society.
Image Credit - Spreadshirt.