Mobile Telephony for Development in Nigeria: Designing mobile technology enabled applications in Local languages

Small holder farming is at the heart of African agriculture. In Nigeria, about 80% of food production is through small holder farming. The huge potential that exists in the Nigerian mobile services industry provides a platform to expand access to agro- related information for improving productivity using data- based applications. A recent government initiative, the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) currently facilitates direct access of farmers to the government’s subsidised agro inputs like fertilisers, free crops and seedlings through an e-wallet system via text messages on their mobile phones. However, language literacy is a critical factor to the long term effectiveness and scaling up of the scheme, in view of the fact that only about half of the population are literate in English. In addition, research has shown that people understand information better when it is presented in their mother tongue or first language. The project leverages on the GESS initiative to provide quality assured mobile technology enabled text and voice applications in five languages, English, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, and Nigerian Pidgin. The project seeks to contribute to ensuring expanded access to agro related services that will make a significant impact on productivity, markets, and livelihoods. Availability of content in these languages will also promote literacy development among small holder farmers. A live demonstration of the project’s customised applications will be presented.

Christine I. Ofulue, Tunde Adegbola and Francis O. Egbokhare

Prof Christine I. Ofulue
Christine I. Ofulue is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at the National Open University of Nigeria. Her experience covers distance learning, language and literacy development, and translation for electronic media platforms.

Prof Tunde Adegbola
Tunde Adegbola holds a Ph.D. in Information Science (with application in Linguistics). He uses his wealth of experience in information and communication media systems as head of a not-for-profit organization, African Languages Technology Initiative (Alt-I), whose main objective is developing speech technologies for African languages.

Prof Francis O. Egbokhare
Francis O. Egbokhare is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria where he promoted the use of technology to mediate distance learning processes and student support services. He has also been involved in content development for mobile platforms.

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