By Amber Naguib
A single window can connect small holder farmers to obtain services at the click of a button – a concept, envisaged by numerous industry players, but still far from implementation.
While the vision is to encapsulate all these services under a single interface, the concept overlooks the importance of the synergies that can be created if all services are transitioned through a single platform.
There are certain key elements, if interconnected, that can enable creation of such a window.
The outreach of mobile banking services from a single platform need not necessarily be constrained to payment transfers. Rather, a host of products can be offered to the farmer digitally.
To build upon adaptability, savings products need to be encouraged and this can only be achieved by offering attractive rates on deposits maintained in wallets.
Digital insurance is a mechanism that can cater to the unique preferences of farmers, while greatly increase insurance penetration rates. Digital lending programs are on their way to replace traditional modes of lending and this platform can be equipped with an added functionality which enables multiple users to lend to one another, thus transitioning group lending onto this domain.
The data generated from these four legs serves as a valuable input into highlighting key trends that can be utilized for various algorithms, including digital financial advisory.
Connecting buyers and sellers of agriculture purchases from a single database can greatly reduce lead times and link farmers to suppliers of relevant materials instantaneously.
This digital procurement portal can be enabled for access by a mobile phone, ultimately connecting farmers that are in close proximity based on data retrieved from real time tracking of the farmer’s location. On-screen menus designed to filter items for trading can be added to the interface alongside providing options for the farmer to distinguish the buyer from the seller with payment via mobile money.
This system will ultimately connect both parties, who initially might not have access to in-person trading opportunities in their respective localities.
Small farmers often lack access to basic amenities as they reside in areas where infrastructure development is inadequate and often off grid from the main electricity supply network. Energy solutions can be provided by entering into an arrangement whereby a rental based model can be utilized to remit the proceeds for the purchase of an energy solution via mobile money.
The significance of clean energy solutions is often overlooked as a critical input for energy generation whereas this is readily available in different forms in most parts of the country.
A mechanism for availing assistance for adequate agricultural practices need not be constrained to in person visits between industry experts and farmers.
In contrast, a mechanism can be developed whereby the farmer has an unlimited outreach and can obtain access to information through a single portal equipped to generate customized assistance. This can be achieved by extracting trends from data which serves as a source of critical input on two levels – first, data generation can be made in real time, as and when services are acquired and secondly, pertinent data directly impacting agricultural practices can also be incorporated as part of the system.
The farmer will be able to access information by two methods – first, a dial in option to seek information when required by the farmer. Secondly, an algorithm can be equipped to generate robo calls to farmers offering advisory services based on data analytics derived from critical inputs in the system.
Support can further be availed from government departments by connecting existing databases which have access to vast amounts of information, ranging from genetically improved seed varieties to weather forecasts.
The agricultural industry within Pakistan is not structured, has varying dynamics and exhibits high levels of seasonality. As the country’s population is vastly located within rural areas, the overwhelming majority still require access to such services, which can enable them to achieve higher levels of sustainability and thus, enhanced economic empowerment.
To be able to penetrate these services successfully, a multitude of industry participants need to collaborate to specialize within their respective areas and leverage upon the synergistic effect that can be created from this process, while bearing in mind the challenges faced with respect to telco coverage, usage of feature versus smart phones and literacy.
The author is a digital financial services expert as well as an investment specialist. She is currently implementing a number of solutions from the platform of a corporation in order to financially include the unbanked into the mobile money ecosystem in Pakistan.