Brought to us by Mark Davies – market information obsessed anthropologist & technologist (and incidentally the founder/CEO of Esoko).
Recently at a UNECA workshop in Addis I was challenged by Vincent Fautrel of CTA (the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU) about Esoko’s strategy. I had been talking about the new products and services that we were planning to introduce to serve businesses and organizations, and Vincent wondered whether or not Esoko would continue to serve the needs of smallholder farmers. It’s a valid question. The reason I think it’s worth writing about here is because I think buried within that question are key issues about market demand, product vision and the evolution of MIS, so I wanted to pull out a few threads and pick them up here.
Vincent was also surprised to hear me talk about this as an ‘industry’, and questioned the validity of that term. But I’m convinced more than ever that there is an industry of information products serving agricultural communities expanding quickly in Africa. It’s exciting, confusing and we’ve got very few points of reference to guide us as we navigate through this period of innovation and disruption.
So why does the community still remain so poorly documented, and so clearly misunderstood? Even by those of us practicing within it? I would suggest there are two areas that are confusing us and we need to think big about both: history and technology.