About Grameen Foundation AppLab
With the solutions developed by Grameen Foundation AppLab, pregnant mothers can use their mobile phone to learn about nutrition, prenatal care and local clinics. Microentrepreneurs can earn income by selling airtime through their phones. Farmers can gain access to accurate weather forecasts and market prices, and receive information on treatment of crop and animal diseases. And unbanked men and women can test new ways to access financial services over their mobile phone. AppLab has created and refined a proven approach to developing and implementing mobile applications and services that help the world’s poor.
AppLab comprises the field innovation hubs where Grameen Foundation develops and deploys mobile phone-based solutions to alleviate poverty. Today, Grameen Foundation AppLabs are located in Uganda, Indonesia, Ghana and Colombia.
There are more than 5 billion mobile phones in the world, with 4 billion of them in developing countries and emerging markets, often being shared by several people. As the fastest-adopted technology in human history, mobile phones have remarkable potential to provide the poor with access to critical information and services.
Grameen Foundation AppLab identifies needs of the poor related to health, finances, agriculture and employment, and develops mobile phone-based applications, services and business opportunities to help improve livelihoods – and lives. We work to build solutions that address the market failures that perpetuate poverty, working closely with local and international partners to design and implement our solutions, as well as the poor themselves – the people we serve are vital contributors to the innovation process.
That said, we believe that technology and information alone are not the solution. An essential part of our strategy involves training and engaging members of the community to act as “trusted intermediaries” who create awareness of available services, answer questions and act as a bridge to those who do not own phones or who are illiterate.
Grameen Foundation AppLab has a track record of designing successful mobile services dating back to 2003. Our first work included the development of the Village Phone replication program and Google SMS:
Village Phone: In the mid-2000s, airtime prices had dropped substantially but phone prices had not fallen as quickly, creating a business opportunity for village-level entrepreneurs to own a phone and rent access similar to a payphone. Grameen Foundation imported the concept from Bangladesh and adapted it for the Ugandan market, leading to a commercial success that was eventually incorporated into MTN’s business. Grameen Foundation followed a similar model in Rwanda, creating more than 25,000 entrepreneurs, most of whom were women.
Google SMS: In Uganda, Google invested in a two-year project with Grameen Foundation to jointly develop relevant information products for the poor. The partnership culminated in 2009 with the launch of three new products – Google SMS, Google Search and Google Trader. These products were subsequently expanded by MTN in Uganda, while Google has replicated and expanded these products to other countries. Google, MTN and Grameen Foundation AppLab won the 2010 GSMA Best Use of Mobile for Social & Economic Development Award for their efforts.
Village Phone 2: In Indonesia, Grameen Foundation, Qualcomm and social enterprise partner Ruma have developed applications that enable Ruma’s network of more than 10,000 franchisees to sell airtime and other services through mobile phones. More than 85% of these microfranchises are owned and operated by women.