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My first field day! First visit to a village called Jenga that is situated about 2 hours away from Tamale by a car. I felt like a little school kid again, all anxious for a field trip.  I tried to observe every inch of this space that was new to me, but somehow it did not look that novel.  Maybe because we had seen so many footages already on TV or maybe the goats near the mud huts reminded me of the farming lands where I used to run around as a kid in late 1970’s in South Korea. 

Jenga Village

We wanted to communicate to the first community, where we were going to launch the software for the shea transactions, about the new process of delivering the shea nuts using identified sacks with barcodes.  My field officer, who was in charge of the relationship with these women, gathered women one by one under a big community tree that created us a nice shade from the scorching sun.  They have no clock or watch, so meeting at 9 am literally means nothing unless the field officer’s motorcycle shows up with a big noise to the village center.   All age groups of kids followed their moms.  All of them were lingering around me and Jochen with curiosity, especially on our camera.  They still were feeling a bit nervous about us and just gave us long stares.  With a barrier of language and feeling uncomfortable that I came empty handed to visit someone’s home territory,   I quickly scrambled my mind to see how to connect with these new faces.   Being a mom, I took out two small pictures of my daughter and son I carried in my wallet and circulated among around 30 women who gathered.  Very quickly I start seeing the shines in their faces exchanging their opinions on my kids and putting the picture forward close to me to compare them with my face.   Their novelty on me and my kids, who were supposed to be in one of the northern countries they referred too, seemed to fascinate them.  I instantly connected with the women using the biggest nature power of motherhood as a commonality and I started entertaining the kids who flocked around us by signing some children songs and the alphabet song, which I figured a must educational song for children.  Once I broke the ice with the community, we jumped into a heated discussion on the business transaction and new processes and distributed the new sacks and showed the women how to attach the barcode tags to the sacks.  And then we moved onto another village nearby to repeat. 

Motherhood bonding

The next day, we came back to the warehouse of the same community where we received the sacks of shea nuts.  The donkey was pulling a cart full of the 85 kg shea nut sacks.  Standing next to a donkey cart, we pressed the synchronize button in  SAP Rural Sourcing Management application on the Motorola defy smartphone  to send all the real time transaction data to the server in Germany.  Then, within a few seconds, we got the confirmation from my colleague in Germany that synchronization of the data was successful!  The excitement and thrill we shared as a team could be compared to seeing a miracle of the odd combination of wireless data  and magical dusts floating around while the slow lazy donkey rolling on the red dirt road scratching his back.  The power of innovation and technology that was brought, almost like a miracle to this continent for its development, energized me so much and made me real proud to be a part of this contribution and SAP.  This day was definitely the highlight of my Ghana trip!

Synchronization  Donkey

donkey and me.jpgCell tower

To be continued….

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See the related blog posts on SAP Sustainability Shea Project Ghana Trip by navigating arrow buttons next to the title on top.

Previously…

Post 1 How is SAP Helping the World in the Bottom of Pyramid?:

SAP Sustainability Shea Project Blog Post 1 : How is SAP Helping the World in the Bottom of Pyramid?

Post 2 Here Comes the Stilettos City Girl to Crack Ghanaian Shea Nuts!:

SAP Sustainability Shea Project Blog Post 2 : Here Comes the Stilettos City Girl to Crack Ghanaian Shea Nuts!

Post 3 First Impressions of Africa! :

SAP Sustainability Shea Project Blog Post 3 : First Impressions…

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6 Comments

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  1. Marilyn Pratt
    Love this story.  Would like to know more about the dialouges around business processes.  How did the mobile technology support the women’s way of working?  Did it impose certain changes?  Did the software really reflect the existing business model?  How will this be sustained going forward?  Really interested to know how the women responded to the use of technology?  How accessible is this?  Is this project replicatable? 
    (0) 
    1. Hyunsoo Shim Post author
      Thanks Marilyn for showing great interest!
      I will try to answer concisely.
      How did the mobile technology support the women’s way of working?
      – SAP Shea Project provided a set of technologies. 1. Simple mobile text messaging service to the groups of women for the market pricing, 2.Rural market connection and rural soucing manage mobile applicaiton that are used by the StarShea Network admin staffs to monitor the shea order and activities in supply chain processes, 3. Microloan management software for the MFIs involved in the project as well, 4. not to mention of the starshea.com website for marketing and sales.
      Did it impose certain changes?  Did the software really reflect the existing business model? 
      The process has changed in a way that now the individual woman will work as a group to aggregate their supply to gain the sourcing power as a bigger entity and directly sell to one global buyer.  The technology provides the transparency and traciability to the global buyer on top of the premium quality our women produced through our training.  This is the basic concept of this project…”Connecting the informal economy to the formal economy using the technology, edcuation and microfinancing”.  The software really reflected the reality since we had done the true lean agile development together with the field customer/partner/user, Planet Finance in Ghana. 

      How will this be sustained going forward?  Very good quesiton.  We have tackled that challenge by proposing the social business concept and being approved by SAP board.  We are setting up a social business entity in Ghana that will replace the project for the longer sustainability.

      Really interested to know how the women responded to the use of technology?  How accessible is this?  Is this project replicatable?  The women are excited about the new opportunity and the increase of profit, the bottom line.  Most of the women are illeterate so they are not the direct user of the phones.  The field officers who handles the sacks are super excited about using the smart phones so much that they really didn’t like the paper process any more. 

      This project is replicable and that is our goal and we are currently working on that internally with other partners and customers.

      There will be a few more posts after and if you are interested, please visit http://www.starshea.com for the details.

      Best regards,
      Soo

      (0) 
    2. Hyunsoo Shim Post author
      Thanks Marilyn for showing great interest!  I will try to answer you here.

      How did the mobile technology support the women’s way of working?
      – SAP Shea Project provided a set of technologies. 1. Simple mobile text messaging service to the groups of women for the market pricing, 2.Rural market connection and rural soucing manage mobile application that are used by the StarShea Network admin staffs to monitor the shea order and activities in supply chain processes, 3. Microloan management software for the MFIs involved in the project as well, 4. not to mention of the starshea.com website for marketing and sales.

      Did it impose certain changes? Did the software really reflect the existing business model?
      The process has changed in a way that now the individual woman will work as a group to aggregate their supply to gain the sourcing power as a bigger entity and directly sell to one global buyer. The technology provides the transparency and traceability to the global buyer on top of the premium quality our women produced through our training. This is the basic concept of this project…”Connecting the informal economy to the formal economy using the technology, education and micro financing”. The software really reflected the reality since we had done the true lean agile development together with the field customer/partner/user, Planet Finance in Ghana.

      How will this be sustained going forward? Very good question. We have tackled that challenge by proposing the social business concept and being approved by SAP board. We are setting up a social business entity in Ghana that will replace the project for the longer sustainability.

      Really interested to know how the women responded to the use of technology? How accessible is this? Is this project replicatable? The women are excited about the new opportunity to increase the profit, the bottom line. Most of the women are illiterate so they are not the direct user of the phones. The group leader is given a phone to check the market price.  The field officers who handles the sacks are super excited about using the smart phones so much that they really didn’t like the paper process any more.  But the women were explained how we trace the individual sack using the barcodes and how barcodes identifies their names.  I guess it might be a bit mystical for them to understand that notion but they seem to be excited about all new gadgets ƒº

      This project is replicable and that is our goal and we are currently working on that internally with other partners and customers.

      There will be a few more posts after and if you are interested, please visit http://www.starshea.com for the details.

      Best regards,
      Soo

      (0) 
      1. Marilyn Pratt
        Thanks for the comprehensive response.  Know one more question and perhaps a challenge (not so much for you Soo but for developers, SAP Research).  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could take the business model, the software, the technology and enable this for ILLITERATE women.  This is a dream I’ve been thinking of for a while now.  Why not use a way of creating a pictorial access so that not only “field officers” can use the smart phones, but also the women in the field.  I’m always a bit suspicious of technology that is “elite”.  Let’s think of how to make this accessible TO ALL.  Thanks so much for this series Soo and looking forward to more post from you!
        (0) 
        1. Hyunsoo Shim Post author
          Great point Marilyn.  Like all those Apple products that can be used by my son who can’t read yet… I believe SAP does focus on the beautiful UI innovation more and more.  I have a faith in it.  In our particular project setting,  there was no need for the individul women to use the smart phone during the business processes since they collect the nuts and deliver them to a warehouse.  But, it is a great idea to have such software for other use cases for example, of training/educational program.

          (0) 
        2. Hyunsoo Shim Post author
          Great point Marilyn. Like all those Apple products that can be used by my son who can’t read yet… I believe SAP does focus on the beautiful UI innovation more and more. I have a faith in it. In our particular project setting, there was no need for the individul women to use the smart phone during the business processes since they collect the nuts and deliver them to a warehouse. But, it is a great idea to have such software for other use cases for example, of training/educational program.
          (0) 

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