W4RA works to contribute to the development of agro-value chains as they can increase rural household incomes. The development of value chains is influenced not only by proximity to markets but also by farmers’ access to market information. One of the (limited) ways farmers can access information about markets and prices is through mobile phones and radio programs. W4RA has, in collaboration with partners in Mali and other countries, developed and deployed the RadioMarché system [1-4] that provides services regarding agricultural products and market prices, accessible to rural people via voice, in local African languages, using mobile phones and community radio as interfaces. Special text-to-speech technologies were developed and implemented in French, Bambara, and Bomu. This dissemination of market information by this system did indeed serve to increase sales of agro-products such as honey.
As winner of the News Innovation Contest of the International Press Institute, W4RA developed the Foroba Blon application for citizen journalism [2,3]. It is in use for question-and-answer phone-in programs by Malian rural community radio stations, but it has also been used by Al-Jazeera for the remote rural monitoring of the presidential elections in Ghana and Kenya.
In the Sahel region there is (obviously) great interest in high-quality and locally relevant weather and meteo information. This is still lacking. With our partner 2CoolMonkeys BV we are developing apps for this . The first generation of these apps have been downloaded in Africa already several thousands of times.
Local capacity building is a further key element in the W4RA approach to, so we work with and peer-to-peer train many in innovative ICT applications, including partners in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana .