So, a couple of years ago, the Finnish company decided to strengthen its service business to support its handset sales. So far, it has worked well. According to them, Indonesia, along with India, has the largest number of Ovi Mail users. Ovi, as you know, is the mainstay of Nokia’s Internet-based services.
Now, combining their capability in mobile services and their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda, Nokia is going to launch a range of services called Nokia Life Tools in December. The targets? People living in non-urban areas.
“We are pooling together a number of parties to provide only relevant information and tips to these people,” said Jawahar Kanjilal, global head of Nokia Life Tools, Emerging Markets.
The services were first launched in India, and were considered a success. Over there, the users have benefited from important information sent directly to their cell phones.
“These are services designed by us in the Emerging Markets and are primarily intended for emerging markets, although they can be provided anywhere in the world,” said Jawahar in our interview.
These services will be replicated next in Indonesia and perhaps Vietnam. In Indonesia, Nokia’s information and tips can help farmers plan their crops according to the weather, find out selling prices of their harvests so that middlemen can no longer take advantage of information asymmetry to cheat them, and no less importantly, get tips on how to grow their crops.
Advice may be about what fertilizer to use, how much and how long it should be used for to prevent toxic contamination, for example.
When a farmer subscribes to a Nokia Life Tools service, he or she will be asked to provide some information, such as what crop will be planted.
As the accompanying picture of the Nokia Life Tools-ready Nokia 2690 illustrates, the farmer will be able to choose the crop he or she wants to grow — corns, potatoes, cabbages, carrots, bananas, mangoes, etc.
The system, which already knows the location of the farmer from the cell phone number — whether in North Sumatra or in Sumbawa, will send text messages to the handset pertaining to the crop chosen. There will be at least one SMS in Indonesian each day.
Nokia provides the SMS server, while participating content providers work together with content
aggregators and mobile operators to create and send the content to subscribers.
“Nokia helps decide what information to send them, so that they will only get the tips and news they can use,” said Jawahar.
For example, although two farmers — one in Dieng, East Java, and another in Kabanjahe, North Sumatra — are planning to grow potatoes, the tips they will receive may be different. This is because different geographical locations may have different weather patterns.
Nokia Life Tools are not only for farmers. A user can subscribe to the entertainment and education content, too. A student living in a rural area, who wants to get additional lessons in English because he dreams of studying abroad after high school, can subscribe to English lessons. Or, if preparing for university entrance exams, he or she can subscribe to tutorials in various subjects such as physics, math and chemistry. Those who want the latest information can subscribe to detik.com, the number one online news portal in Indonesia.
Who else besides detik.com has joined the bandwagon? The directorate general of processing and marketing of agricultural products under the ministry of agriculture and Synovate have collaborated to provide planting tips and updated market prices for agricultural commodities, while the Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics will provide weather forecasts. PT Balai Pustaka (Persero), ELTI — an established English Course, SSCIntersolusi — a private study aid provider, and Grasindo — a subsidiary of the Kompas-Gramedia Group, are providing educational content.
During the showcase of Nokia Life Tools in Indonesia last week, Nokia also announced five new handsets with built-in support
for the service — Nokia 1280, 1616 1800, 2220 Slide and 2690. These are very affordable handsets with prices starting from US$30 for the simplest model.
Access to Nokia Life Tools is now through the handset menu, but in the future, there will be models
with special shortcut buttons.
Three existing models that already support Nokia Life Tools are the 2323 Classic, the 2330 Classic and the 2700 Classic.
One great feature of these low-cost cell phones is their long battery life. Nokia claims the standby time can be up to 22 days, an important feature in places where electricity is still scarce.
Nokia Life Tools for farmers will first be available to subscribers in Java and Sumatra, while entertainment and education will be accessible nationwide. Of course, more content can be provided if the market wants it.
The messages sent by the service may contain icons, tables and graphical elements. I had some concern they would clutter or even fill up the subscribers’ inbox. It turns out these messages will be collected in a separate folder and be easy to retrieve if the users cannot read them right away.
Many efforts to alleviate the digital gaps between the rural and urban population have been made in the past. The implementation of community telecenters, for example, is aimed at giving farmers the opportunity to get online and share information with fellow farmers.
The beauty of Nokia Life Tools is that no searching is required. The services are accessible anywhere and at any time.