The New Times (Kigali)

23 January 2013

Rwanda: Govt Moves to Take Over E-Soko System

The second phase of the e-Soko application that is set to kick off next month will see the government taking full control of the system.

Currently, e-soko, an electronic platform that gives farmers, consumers and traders up-to-date information about market prices for essential commodities via their mobile phones is hosted by MTN Rwanda.

However, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture say that this does not only make it expensive but also hard for the government to have full control of the application.

Wilson Musonera, the systems administrator of the platform, told The New Times on Tuesday that the government, through Rwanda Development Board, has engaged Voxiva; the USA Company that developed and plays the technical role of the platform to make the necessary changes.

"We are now going to migrate the system from MTN and it will be hosted by the National Data Center; something that is also expected to reduce the costs we have been incurring," Musonera said.

To make this system work, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture collect information or market prices on various products in 62 markets which they feed into their database. The public then gets access to such information by sending an SMS to 7656, at a cost of Rwf10.

The move, which is in its final stages, will see this information in the government server, according to Musonera.

In addition to availing commodity prices, the second phase comes as a marketing strategy. It comes as good news for business persons to market their products.

"This five-year strategic plan will, among others, give room for advertising products so that producers can have favourable markets of their produce," he said.

In 2011, during the third Technology in Government in Africa (TIGA) Awards that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this system won an African award as a model innovative project in Africa based on its role in providing required information for farmers. In this second phase, information is also expected to be provided in English and Kiswahiri in addition to the current Kinyarwanda. It is also expected that MTN's monopoly in providing the service will come to an end as Tigo and Airtel will too be included on the service in a move to serve more people.

ABOUT E-SOKO:

The eRwanda Project, a World Bank funded ICT for Development project being implemented by the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA), intends to remedy the critical information gap with the use of ICTs through its e-SOKO Project that seeks to empower farmers to enable them make more informed market pricing decisions and ultimately more successful farming. This Agricultural Market Pricing Information System will also significantly enhance the Ministry of Agriculture - (MINAGRI's) interaction with the farmers and traders as well as the planning function.

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