A mobile text messaging app with the simple name of iCow is helping dairy farmers work more efficiently. When they register their cows with the service, they receive in return information on valuable data such as as gestation cycles and feed quality. They can also access veterinary assistance through the service’s database and connect with other farmers looking to buy or sell cattle. The 42,000 who have signed up represent a minority of Kenyan farmers, but iCow creator Su Kahumbu expects that number to grow. She has also received requests to expand iCow from countries as near as Uganda and as far as Russia.
What’s the Big Idea?
iCow is just one of many mobile apps that are helping to change lives and conditions across rural sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to the proliferation of mobile connections — 475 million across the entire continent to date — and the spread of innovation centers that encourage creative solutions to problems. Kenyan government official Bitange Ndemo says, “Today, there are multiple options to address these problems. If Plan A doesn’t work, there’s Plan B and Plan C.” He adds that iCow and similar apps have reduced the potential for abuse and exploitation of farmers: “[They now have] more information about retail and wholesale prices. They know precisely what things cost.”