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Pitch

Farmers will receive advice on agricultural technologies and climate information services in their own languages by calling to call centers


Description

Summary

Even if Africa has the highest potential for agricultural production in the world; it is unable to produce enough to feed its ever increasing population. Consequently, it is still suffering from food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, etc. African Agriculture is being further challenged by adverse effects of climate change impacts deepening the existing problems. Limited uses of existing proven agricultural technologies, knowledge and skill at grass root levels are the major causes of low agricultural productivity. These in turn are caused by inefficient extension services, poor infrastructure, limited knowledge and skills of professional etc. Thus, to improve the situation, there is a strong need for enhanced and consistent transfer of improved agricultural and climate technologies, knowledge and skills to grass root levels where they will be translated into practice to increase productivity.

To achieve the goal stated above, in addition to the existing formal agricultural extension systems in Africa, there is a need to capitalize on fast developing ICT technologies such as mobile phones which are becoming high valued communication channels both for extension workers and famers for efficient and fast transfer of agriculture and climate technologies, information, knowledge etc. With this background we propose the establishment of National Farmers Helpline Call Centers (NFHLC) in Africa to which famers will call using their mobile phones and receive whatever information and advices they inquire for. NFHLC are envisaged to be established as a pilot project in Nigeria and Ethiopia where they will serve 50,000 farmers each in local languages. Lessons from piloting this project will be used to scale up NFHLC across Africa. Details of hardware and software requirements of NFHLC; manpower and budget needs are described in this proposal. Furthermore, capacity building, awareness creation, licensing requirements, operational mechanisms etc. are also described herein.

 


Proposals


What actions do you propose?

Overview About Farmers Call Centers

Call centers require the integration of several different technologies to maximize the use of information and to streamline the activities of call center operators. Advances in technology and the adaptation and integration of synergistic technologies have resulted in the development of numerous features that have enhanced the growth of call centers throughout the world. The computer and the telephone are two of the major and most familiar tools of technology that have converged to make call centers more efficient and productive. When used properly along with software technology that assists operators to assimilate and analyze customer data to respond knowledgeably to customer inquiries, the benefits to both the customer and the organization are substantial.

The following actions are required to establish and run farmers call centers

Equipment and systems technology for Call Centers

  1. A single contact number: This is the most rudimentary approach towards establishing a call  Center where you have a toll free number that customers can call without having to pay for it.

2. Basic Telephone System: Here the agents will have separate lines, which can directly receive and make calls.

3. PABX system: A Private Automatic Branch Exchange is a set of specialized equipment that can allow calls to be transferred internally while retaining individual numbers for different telephones. Callers can dial a specific extension to reach a specific agent or department

4. Automatic Call Distribution (ACD):  This system provides the flexibility of offering improved customer service by allowing the calls to be placed on hold until an agent becomes free to answer the call.

5. IVR systems: can also be used to route the calls to the most relevant agent based on choices that the caller makes.

6. Computer Telephone Integration (CTI): which also allows the agent to view the transactions and customer information related to the caller as soon as the call is routed to him/her.     

Portals

  • Chat;
  • FAQs; and
  • Agency’s Content Delivery;

B. Additional Technology

Predictive Dialers which can auto dial numbers from a database so that busy numbers as well as unanswered calls can be filtered out and dialed automatically

Automatic Call Recording

This will help to record all activities, which can be used for resolving disputes

Noise Reduction Headsets

A call center environment can become very noisy with the constant calls attended by agents who may be seated very close to each other. Noise reduction headsets go a long way in increasing the productivity of agents as well as improving the customer call experience.

Operational Mechanism

The proposed   Call Centers will have three levels and they are classified as Level-I , Level-II and Level-III.  Level-I  consists of  the basic Call Center interface with high quality bandwidth and local language proficient Agriculture and climate professionals, Level-II  will have subject Matter specialists  on diverse disciplines of agriculture, weather and climate sciences who will be  connected through good bandwidth telecom and computer connectivity and Level-III  will consist the management group to ensure ultimate answering and resolution of all the farmers queries which are not resolved at Level-II, connected on off line mode.

Level - I: The call coming to the call center is picked up by an operator who after a short welcome message takes down the basic information and the queries of the caller. These details are fed into a computer located next to the operator by the operator himself. And the first level receiver of the call would also feeds into the computer the question being asked by the farmer.

The first level operators preferably would be an agricultural graduate with rural background knowing local language. They should also possess good communication skills. They would be in a position to answer a majority of the questions likely to be asked by the farmers.

Level-II: The level -II consists of Subject Matter Specialists (SMS) who are located at their respective place (station,), of work. In case the first level operator is not able to answer the question, the operator forwards (in call sharing mode) the call to the concerned Subject Matter Specialist. The data relating to the caller including the question asked is also be transferred to the Level-II functionary on his computer along with the call. Hence, when the specialist takes the forwarded call, his computer also shows the data and question asked so that there is no repetition. It is envisaged that in normal cases, the entire spill over questions from the first level get answered at this level. In case, it is not possible to answer, there is a system to revert back to the caller by post / fax / e-mail or by telephone in 72 hours.

Before the call centers being to give services,  detailed information  the farming systems, agroecologies, biophysical and socioeconomics, potential and constraints to agricultural production etc. of the local area to which the call centers are established to serve. The subject matter specialists working for the call centers should also be selected in such a way that they have deep knowledge of the farmers and their area to be served with the services in addition to their formal expertise in agriculture and climate.

One option could be to select commodity wise specialist, that is, every question related to a particular crop or commodity would be directed to that specialist, who would in turn answer that question. Other option could be to select general specialists who would deal with various subjects likely to arise. The specialists should ideally be located within a city. They should have good communication skills and should know the local language. These specialists should have at least a minimum of 10-15 years of field experience in their respective specialization.

Level - III: The level - III consists of a dedicated cell located at the Nodal Office. This would receive the questions that have not been answered at the first and the second levels. Appropriate replies to these questions would be then framed in consultation with the concerned specialists available within or outside the State, by the nodal cell. The replies would be sent to the farmers promptly by post/e-mail/fax/ telephone etc. within 72 hours of receipt of the question.

Analyzing call center requirements

There are many aspects to designing and developing a call center operation, including selecting the location, telephone equipment, networking equipment, and software. This combination of technologies and the complexity of integrating all elements effectively and economically present a challenge to the call center development team.

Building a call center internally may be feasible only for very large enterprises—smaller companies should consider outsourcing their call centers to organizations that specialize in providing these services and already have the latest technologies installed and operating, with trained staff. These organizations can often provide excellent customer-oriented services, relieving smaller organizations of the financial, managerial, and human resources issues involved in an internal, corporate call center. Calculating the overall budget for the project will determine whether to build and manage a call center internally or to outsource some or all of the operations to keep costs down and focus on customer retention. Building a call center can run to several million dollars in capital equipment alone, not to mention the cost of hiring staff and managing the day-to-day operations.

With the Internet and potentially rapid response opportunities, new ways for customers to reach companies—e-mail, Web chat, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)—have been added to the traditional forms of communication. To prepare for these multiple communications media and to efficiently serve customers, companies need to capture information from across the enterprise and consolidate customer related data into a central database. In most cases, customer data resides in many systems, such as order history, fulfillment, shipping, and billing. The number of sources of data can reduce the ability of CSRs to handle requests and can also contribute to errors and duplication.

For corporations to handle these multiple customer contact channels effectively, integrating the varied systems is essential. Its call center facility requires carefully selected technology tools.

A complete analysis of the technology and human relations components of a call center reveals a number of planning and selection challenges for the project team charged with development, management, and maintenance of the call center operation. It also highlights the

Major issues to be addressed for the start-up and on-going management of the center. This analysis will involve the following major activities:

  1.  Location and size
  2. Technologies
  3. Staffing and training
  4. Communication channels
  5. Monitoring and measuring performance
  6. Call management and handling
  7. Integrated call centers

Location and size

A first step in implementing a call center is to decide on the location of the facility. Whether it is a small department in a local facility or a large, enterprise wide center, this step is important to corporate growth and the bottom line, so it must be planned carefully. The high cost of real estate in populous areas is driving many call center operations to locate in rural areas. With the communication and computer technology available today, it is very easy to locate call centers in any area where high-speed, high-quality communication resources are available, and many organizations have made this choice.

The size of the call center refers not only to square footage but also to the number of CSRs required, telephony and LAN equipment, client desktops, and other switching and computer hardware. Because call centers usually grow in size, it is a sound planning practice to choose a site with room for expansion.

Technologies

The core technologies of a call center involve many underlying components, including the following

  • Computer telephony integration (CTI)
  • Networking hardware
  • Automated call distribution (ACD) facilities
  • PBX phone switch
  • Software

Integrating all the components of the enterprise is time-consuming and expensive. It is important to determine which systems and applications need to be integrated with the call center operation, including

  •  Legacy systems
  • Disparate relational databases
  •  Internet technologies

For ease of integration, it is important to select specific tools that will enable the interconnection of telephony equipment and software components.


Who will take these actions and which types of actors are involved?

This project is envisaged to be launched as pilot project in Ethiopia and Nigeria. Actors and their possible roles and contributions  to farmers call centers are  indicated by identified actor as follows:

 Government (Ethiopia and Nigeria)

  • Creates enabling environment for establishment of farmers call centers.
  • It creates enabling environment for the establishment of call center
  • Avail hosting institution for establishing piloting farmers call centers in the Ethiopian case Hawassa University.
  • Give directives to all relevant ministries and institutions of the government to collaborate and contribute to the establishment, testing and running of the envisaged farmers call centers.

 Universities (Hawassa University of Ethiopia and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria)

  • Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria will play leadership role in addition to other activities for coordination of all aspects of the call centers.
  • Both universities will avail suitable space for establishing call centers.
  • Avail relevant staffs required for coordination and managing of call centers

Ministry of agriculture

  • Awareness creation to farmers on the importance, service etc. call center
  • Approve and licensing of establishment of call center
  • Provide professional services to call center

Meteorology agency

  • Offer free access to weather and climate information to call centers
  • Provide advice on the use of weather and climate information

Telecom

  • Provide single contact number to call center
  • Integrate hard ware and software of call with existing Telecom systems.
  • Inspect the equipment and software required for call centers
  • Legalize devices required for call centers
  • Supply standard network infrastructure

Vendors

  • Provide hard ware and software
  • Free supply of space based data required by call centers
  • Offer call management and handling web sites

Custom authorities

  • Allow duty free import of equipment, accessories, software etc. required for establishing and running the call centers.

Mass media

  • Provide air time for introducing and promotion of call centers and their services to public

Web based social media

  • Introducing and promotion of call centers and their services to public

 


Where will these actions be taken and how could they scale?

It is proposed that two farmers call centers will be established in Ethiopia at Hawassa University and in Nigeria at Ahmadu Bello University as a pilot project. In the course of piloting this project lessons, experiences and challenges will be documented and based on which project for further disseminations, scale out and up of call centers will be designed. However, it is important to note here that establishing call centers are highly cost intensive business and thus, it will be difficult to establish call centers by government and public money alone. Thus, it is mandatory that investors/private sectors involve in expansions of call centers business in Africa. This in turn needs high level decision in Africa. At this juncture we propose decisions for dissemination of call centers in Africa to be made by African Heads of states under the auspices of African Union (AU). Unless decisions are taken at continental level, it will be difficult to attract international investors for establishing and dissemination of call centers in Africa.

 


In addition, specify the countries where these actions will be taken.

Ethiopia


Country 2

Nigeria


Country 3

No country selected


Country 4

No country selected


Country 5

No country selected


Impact/Benefits:


What impact will these actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

Some of outstanding benefits from implementing this pilot project are listed below:

  • Currently, there are no fully fledged call centers serving agriculture and climate sectors in Africa. Thus the pilot call centers to be established in Nigeria and Ethiopia will inspire more and more call centers to be established in the continent that will give services not only to agriculture and climate but also to all fields.
  • Fast and increased dissemination of agricultural technologies in Africa by local languages which will result in increased productivity, adaption to climate change impacts etc.
  • Farmers will have access to information such as sources and prices of inputs, market etc. decision making purpose ‘
  • Increased advisorship services to famers on any topics they inquire for.
  • Farmers will get daily weather information services down scaled to 20-30 km radius so that they will use information to plan planting and harvesting dates, fort early warning on weather related hazards etc.

 


What are the most innovative aspects and main strengths of this approach?

The following are some of innovative aspect/benefits of this project

  • The project will advsiorship service to farmers of Africa by any of African languages
  • Call center will hasten the dissemination of agricultural and climate change adaption technologies and information which will hasten the adoption of technologies.
  • Increased access of technologies, knowledge, skills and information to African farmers to they never have access to them before.
  • Save time, material and money from spending on conventional agricultural extension service in Africa.
  • It will serve as a base for expansion of call centers that will give services in all development spheres in Africa
  • Stimulate investment, trade, research etc. Across value chains of call centers.


Costs/Challenges:


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Estimated budget for for launching this pilot proposal is show below

Item                   Cost/Country           Cost/2 countries

                             (US$)                            (US$)

Equipment            7636458.60                    15272917.00

Integrated Power Supply    7636458.60      15272917.00

Application Development    11791238.76    23582478.00

Media Campaign              

 and senisitization             484897356.00          9794712.00

Licenses                             933914.40                1867828.80

Development of               

Zonal call ceneters     27334080.00                54668160.00             

Consultancy             4555680.00                     9111360.00

On-site and off-site Training  7516872.00       15033744.00

Grad Total          69,881,853. 00         139,763, 706.00


About the Authors

Dr. Wassie Haile Woldeyohannes is currently working as an associate Professor of soils science in college of agriculture, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. He holds PhD degree in soil science from Kastesart University, Thailand.  He has over 25 years of extensive teaching and research experiences in soil science, natural resources management etc. The published more than 20 articles in peer reviewed Journals. He also published more than 15 proceeding and working papers.

Dr. Wassie Haile  also involves in supervisionof graduate students working for their PhD and MSc degrees in disciplines of soil science, agronomy etc., He has experiences in developing and coordinating grant winning research and development projects which had national and international orientations and  serving as consultant in the field of soil science, environmental science so on. He involved in developing the 15 years national soil improvement strategic plan of Ethiopia and he is experience of reviewing manuscripts submitted to diverse journals.

International Experiences

  • He worked as fellow scientists of UN-IAEA in Dakar Senegal for six months in 2001.
  • Served as visiting scholar of UNU-INRA for four months at Accra Ghana in 2012.

Tewodros George Currently working at Hawassa University,Ethiopia as Senior Website administrator.he took his Bsc from Bahirdar University engineering faculty in department of computer science.also he has a post graduate diploma in integrated land management and information system.

He developed more than ten(10) website and five(5) application Software.

Managerial Activities

  • Tewodrs George is a Chief Executive & founder of http://academic-support-africa.com website.
  • General manager of Like ICT Solution PLC that is located in Hawassa,Ethiopia,This PLC is working on Website Development,Software development ,Networking and General office machine  Maintenance .

Sidney Norman Clouston, Jr. was awarded an Associates of Arts degree in Santa Monica City College in the Liberal Arts program. An Associates of Arts degree also for transfer was awarded at the Long Beach City College, both in California. The transfer of formal academic study was to the California State University at Long Beach (CSULB). The declared major of Business Administration, Finance. Departing CSULB prior to the beginning of the Senior year due to a move. Self Directed studies that included sitting with the "Master" Mr. Bauer, selecting stocks at Paine Webber in Long Beach. He was active in the selecting of performance stocks with the earnings of annual yield of 53% on the investment. Bethlehem Steel that Economist called a hold not a buy, it was one selected that was one of the five top Blue Chip performance stocks that year. Paine Webber was purchased by the Union Bank of Switzerland in 2000. 

Sidney researched an original idea for a two sided solar cell. Some work was done by Westinghouse Advanced Energy Systems in Pennsylvania.


References


What enabling environment would be required in order to implement this proposal?