Microsoft Founder Bill Gates Backs Mobile Effort for Humanitarian Relief

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is backing a new mobile venture that is every bit as important as it is innovative.

This week, the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, announced the launch of the mFarmer Initiative Fund, which has been made possible by a grant from the Gates foundation.

Based on details provided in the formal announcement of the project, mFarmer will rely on mobile communications to provide information and advisory services to smallholder farmers in developing countries living on less than $2 per day.

The mFarmer Initiative Fund, which is part of the GSMA’s Mobile Agriculture (mAgri) Program, has the backing and funding to operate for the next two years.

The developing nations to be targeted with mFarmer initially include India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

“There are over 2.3 billion people living on less than $2 day,” says Chris Locke, Executive Director of the GSMA Development Fund, “a large number of whom are rural smallholder farmers in developing countries and who face many issues which inhibit their agricultural productivity and limit their incomes.”

“Through the mFarmer Initiative Fund,” Locke concludes, “the GSMA Development Fund’s mAgri Program will accelerate the provision of high-quality agricultural information services through mobile and by 2013 we aim to provide two million farmers in developing countries* with an invaluable and transformative business resource.”

The GSMA says the mFarmer Initiative Fund is designed to:

  • Stimulate the development of mobile phone-enabled agriculture information and advisory services that are commercially sustainable;
  • Build services that impact farmers’ income and productivity;
  • Reduce the barriers for operators to launch and improve mFarmer Services;
  • Test and prove models for delivering agricultural information services via mobile phones; and
  • Promote a culture of knowledge sharing in the mFarmer ecosystem.