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February 11, 2009

Calling all innovators – Emerging markets challenge

GLOBAL – In the second in our series of three spotlights on the finalists for the Calling All Innovators developer competition, we’re taking a look the Emerging Markets Challenge, with finalists from EMEA, the Americas and APAC. One thing I always fascinating about emerging markets apps is the way technology is adapted (and adopted) to meet very specific local challenges. The first of our finalists comes from EMEA. Fake medication is a serious problem in some countries and mPedigree has used mobile tech to come up with what it thinks might be the answer.

Buying genuine medication isn’t as easy as it should be in some countries. mPedigree uses SMS and scratch cards to enable users to check the validity of the medication they’re buying. By texting the single-use number on the medication to a free-to-access SMS shortcode, users can quickly ascertain if the medication is up to scratch. By linking specific medication to specific users, manufacturers can conduct more accurate product recalls, if necessary, and law enforcement agencies can gather intelligence on fake drug sales.

Fair trade is a rapidly growing industry, but monitoring small holders in developing nations is a challenging process. DigitalCS has developed an application which helps the process of inspection for co-ops. The software includes the ability to fill out surveys, record audio and video and upload the whole lot to a central website. Currently in use by CEPCO, the Oacacan State Coffee producers Network in Mexico, it helps to determine whether standards are being met and conforming to members’ credentials.

Finally, Santosh Ostwal came up with a novel solution for managing crop irrigation in rural regions of India. Nano Ganesh is a water pump solution which comprises a modem capable of interfacing an irrigation pump. The application itself enables the farmer to remotely control the pump through his handset, and check whether there’s enough power available to run the pump. What’s even more impressive is Ostwal has implemented a voice call solution, so the pump can be controlled by voice, rather than SMS or over the Internet. The system ships with Nokia 1100 handsets.

It’s great to see mobile technology being developed and deployed in such innovative ways. Sometimes I think we have access to too much technology in developed countries, and we overlook the sheer ability of a mobile solution to deliver what we genuinely need. Perhaps its time we took a leaf out of these guy’s books.

future tech