Teach a Man to Text

Nicole Hildebrandt is a New York University/Center for Technology and Economic Development doctoral student working on a randomized control trial (RCT) on Esoko in Ghana. These are notes after her recent experience training farmers with the Esoko team. Thanks to CTED for the repost. 

Nicole observing farmers write a text message.

Nicole observing farmers write a text message.

It’s a challenge without any easy solutions.  I saw this first-hand at the Esoko training sessions I observed last month.  In the four-hour training sessions for the treatment group, the first three hours were devoted to Cell Phones 101 (how to navigate the menu, add a contact, check in Inbox, draft a message, and finally press “Send”).  Only the last hour was spent discussing the actual content of the Esoko messages, and how to use the information to obtain higher prices…and that was by far the portion of the training that was easiest for people to absorb. As a (late) twenty-something from the US, I’ve basically grown up using a mobile phone, so it’s hard for me to understand how people can not know how to send a text message (come on, mom, it’s not that hard!).  I think most people in my age cohort – and certainly all those high school and college kids out there who seem to be able to text without even looking at the screen – feel the same way.  Which was why I got some funny looks a few weeks back when I told friends that I was going to Ghana to help teach the farmers in our Esoko RCT how to send and receive a text message.

“You really have to teach a class on that?” Continue reading