Last weekend 2nd – 4th of Friday, Random Hacks of Kindness events were taking place is cities across the world (New York, London, Montreal, …). Thanks to an invitation from IDRC and Nokia (sponsors of the Montreal RHoK) , I was able to be in Montreal, in the company of 80+ software enthusiasts (geeks, hackers, call them what you will) who had volunteered 30 hours of their week end to develop ICT solutions to development problems.
The problem I needed help was related our research agriculture value chains, specifically the pineapple value chain in Sri Lanka
A farmer cannot tell at the point of purchase if a pineapple sapling or sucker is “good” (that it will yield a plant and then fruit that is of adequate quality, free of disease). Only after she has bought it, planted it and many months later the pineapple plant has grown and borne fruit will it be obvious that the sucker was bad. While there could be many perfect solutions (third party chemical testing, certifications), these are difficult to implement. One simple solution we proposed is to have some kind of reputational ranking for sucker sellers – so that before a farmer buys suckers she can check if the seller has a good reputation for selling high quality suckers. After the farmer plants and starts harvesting, the farmer can join the pool of other farmers voting on the reputation of said seller.
The other problem is that pineapple farmers aren’t always aware of other buyers (different buyers from the one they normally sell to, or different types of buyers such as those buying for export vs. those buying for juice/canning). Sellers, specially exporters, often cannot fulfill their orders due to lack of supply.
A team of dedicated developers congregated around this problem, and have take the first steps towards producing a mobile phone application. It’s a job for more than a week end. But the continuous engagement is already happening. I’m thankful to them. We will keep this posted updated with next steps.