Esoko has a range of powerful applications that helps you manage people and the information flows between them.
|Managers can select any number of members within their network, compose freeform SMS messages, and then schedule those messages to be sent immediately, at regular intervals or at a later date. Unique to Esoko, you can target your SMS to specific users, choosing commodity, location and occupation as filters. For example, you could choose to send an SMS to smallscale maize producers in southern Malawi, or all cassava processors near Kumasi, Ghana. Esoko establishes interconnects with mobile operators across the continent or defers to a number of global SMS gateway providers to ensure that you get the very lowest rates possible. Detailed delivery reports show you the status of the messages you've sent, and you can create and save SMS templates, including message and recipients, for those that you send frequently.|
Although users can text in specific SMS codes to Esoko (eg in Ghana texting in 'maize' will give you the latest maize prices, or 'sell 10kg maize' will submit your offer) we find that most prefer to receive an automated alert delivered on a regular basis to their phones. You can setup alerts for single users or groups of users to go out on specific days of the week, with specific content. Currently Esoko delivers market price alerts, weather alerts and matching bids & offers alerts. You can indicate if the recipient is to pay for the alert themselves or if your organization is prepared to pay on their behalf. You can also setup an alert for an entire group so that any member that is added or removed from that group is automatically added or removed from the alert as well.
Interested in getting data FROM the field? Knowing what's happening with your suppliers, customers or beneficiaries is one of the most challenging – and rewarding – aspects of business. We've launched a simple SMS polling service where you can create a question (or series of questions) and schedule them to be sent to groups of people in your network. For example, you could ask 'have you planted yet', or 'how many visits did you receive this week', or 'rate your satisfaction with the program 1-5'. SMS responses are received by Esoko and automatically arranged for reporting and analysis. You can view those who have responded and what their answers have been in real-time. Responses can be grouped, sorted, plotted on maps or downloaded in various forms for deeper analysis. In later iterations, we will introduce more powerful features, including triggers and airtime incentives.
Esoko was originally designed in 2005 to track, report and distribute market prices, and today we have a mature and feature-rich suite of price data tools. Any network can designate specific members to upload real-time prices from their market using SMS syntax, a cybercafé, Java or Android phones. Prices can be captured in different price types (eg farmgate, wholesale, retail, futures) and you can specify if you want to report on the minimum, maximum, or most quoted price. You can upload multiple price readings from different members on a single commodity or location to ensure accuracy. You can also upload at time intervals of your choice - hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Prices are posted immediately into your network space where your administrator will review the data. Price changes are clearly articulated in percentage, large variations are flagged, and tools to contact the original enumerator via SMS provided. Once approved, the prices are available instantly to anyone in your network through web, SMS or Android.
News articles, documents, videos, and audio files can all be uploaded into your network space on Esoko and available to the members of your network. Android users will be able to download this content (or cache it locally) while in the field. You can setup and customize specific categories that are relevant to your organization, making Esoko a knowledgebase for members and field officers..
You can generate maps that display prices, offers, people and polling results in the location of your choice, and rolling over the map icons lets you see detailed information on each. All Esoko users can be identified through their location, enabling you to track how the members of your network interact with the system.
For example, if you setup a poll to ask if users have planted, you can generate a map to see who has responded and filter it according to whatever keyword they have replied with (eg showing you those that have not yet planted). These maps are also available on our Android application, which will soon come with GPS capabilities so that you can pinpoint a user, track the point where the user was profiled, and even plot the size of their farm, compound or factory.
Every organization on Esoko can decide how much of its content is public and how much is private. A simple toggle per application (prices, offers, news, people) will ensure that only members of your group can see that content when they are logged in or when they receive alerts. By deselecting privacy, NGOs and projects can upload and share data as a public good to any subscriber on the Esoko system.
Furthermore, networks can request to pull data from or share data to another network - you only have to setup very basic sharing rules with other networks. In this way, a country or organization can share from the content that other groups are uploading into the system, or if you have a number of organizations the parent can display the content from all the children or sibling organizations.
A Government could have a country network that pulls data from each of its Ministries, or Regional divisions of multi-nationals can feed a global site with content. When a user rolls over the content element on the web, they can see who uploaded it and which network it belongs to.
Esoko is not as much about applications and features and data as it is about people, and getting them defined, grouped and profiled is the first step. You can profile people individually, either via the web or through Android, or you can do a quick bulk upload of them by sending us your lists. Along with the standard information (name, location, commodities, mobile number) you can easily add additional information onto profiles like a description, photograph, GPS coordinates, and farm size. After profiling members in your network, you can break them down into more specific groups, making targeted communication even easier. All content uploaded on Esoko must be owned by one network so that the content is managed, sourced, and attributed to that network. You can share your data (and receive data from other networks) by toggling what is public and what is private, and by setting up sharing rules with other networks. We recognize the transformational impact of social networking and use the same concepts for commercial networking, bringing the service to life and reflecting the reality that business is driven by people.
Although Esoko is available through basic SMS on any phone, more advanced users can benefit from our Java and Android applications. The Java app, 'Mobi', offers forms for price requests, uploads, and offers. Mobi can be customized to your network locations and commodities and can be downloaded directly onto Java enabled phones. It interacts with the Esoko servers either through SMS or a mobile data connection, and enumeration agents who are tasked with repetitive market data uploads can particularly benefit from Mobi. Esoko has also developed an Android application, currently in beta deployment.
This is much more extensive than the Java application, including a broader range of services and tasks (including profiling and mapping) and is only available via a data (GPRS) connection. It can be customized with tasks particular to your organization. Both solutions enable real-time market data uploading from the field to Esoko – allowing network managers to track market dynamics as they happen.
In Ghana, Esoko is pioneering the use of a call centre to support and extend our mobile services. We know that farmers request a phone number to call for support with configuration and subscriptions. And in some cases, they may just be more comfortable asking an operator to read out the prices for them, or it may be easier for a user to join a network by simply calling us. The other opportunity this presents is providing much more detailed and rich agricultural advisories that are not as easily transmitted by SMS.
Esoko is building a customized dashboard and knowledgebase for call centre operators that can help them source and diagnose any problems or requests that come from callers in the field. This knowledgebase will be tailored to include specific organizational information so the call centre can support the administration of your programs in the field. In addition, the content can appear in a minimized format on Android smartphones, so field agents can also access the knowledgebase and provide support while on the ground. If the call centre project is successful, it should be replicated to other Esoko Countries in 2013.