And another follow up post on the University of Oxford's Future Technology Conference: During on of the many "socializing breaks" I met Eric Seuret of 3SMobile and he told me about the crop insurance via SMS application for farmers in Kenya he has developed for Syngenta, a large global agriculture company. The concept is so elegant, simple and has the potential to improve the lives of many people, so I asked Eric to send me some more details about how the service works. Here are the details:
The weather insurance solution via SMS helps protect small holder farmers against the risk of drought. When a farmer purchases certain Syngenta seeds and crop protection products he obtains special insurance stickers. When he has collected a certain number of stickers he gets an ID number which entitles him to 1 acre of free weather insurance for that season. To obtain the insurance he does not need to fill out any forms or contracts. All he needs need to do is SMS a unique insurance code ID to a local number. The system then verifies that the insurance code is valid and confirms the farmer's insurance status. If the farmer has a larger plot of land he can obtain multiple cards and insurance policies.
Throughout the course of the year the farmer is kept informed of major weather issues that are related to the policy via SMS. At the end of the season the historical weather data is used to determine which farmers are entitled to a payout based on their region. In the case of a payout the farmer is notified via SMS and they can go to the stockist to obtain the payout.
It is the first time that insurance has been made available to small holder farmers in Kenya with 1 acre or less of land. This has only been possible through the use of mobile technologies were the solution finally became cost effective. Mobile phones were used to simplify the administration, reduce costs, enable immediate registrations, and to help form a direct link to the end customer. In many cases the mobile phone represent the only way to reach the farmers without physically visiting the remote villages. The innovative solution is currently running as a pilot project and is so far proving to be very successful.
The insurance concept and solution was designed by Rose Goslinga and Fritz Brugger for the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Development and developed by Eric Seuret.