I hope my reply was not confusing. What I meant is that we already have a strong team of computer scientists who are designing the very technical matching algorithm within Kudu. However, we're seeking support in terms of thinking through how users interact with the platform and what we can do to increase adoption. Specifically, help on the user interface and on advertisement strategies would be particularly useful here.
Secondly, we would like support from a business design perspective for improving the auxiliary services that AgriNet offers. These include: 1) a line of credit extended to AgriNet’s in-village agents in order to facilitate bulking small amounts that individual smallholders want to sell into large, bulk offers that are appealing to larger buyers; 2) screening for quality and quantity by AgriNet in-village agents prior to a sale; and 3) an insurance product to protect buyers against the risk of engaging in trade with new farmers, including the compensation of transport costs in the event that a deal is not executed as promised by the system. Here, more traditional consulting services on business strategy would be very useful.
Does this help to clarify where we see an alignment of our needs with Amplify's expertise?
Great question. We are primarily seeking support for the design of the other services, as we have a strong technical team already working on iterating on the design of the platform itself. That said, feedback from a human-centered design perspective on factors that could encourage higher, denser adoption of the platform would be much appreciated as well!
Thanks very much for your comments. Kudu, AgriNet, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) are equal partners in this collaboration. Each have several full-time staff devoted to this initiative. We have been working together for two years on this project, which is our first together.
We are getting feedback from farmers through a variety of channels. The rigorous evaluation (run as a randomized controlled trial) coordination by IPA entails detailed surveys of over a thousand potential beneficiaries, including both farmers and intermediaries. These surveys dive into important long-run impacts of the system, exploring how users utilize the system to gain information on market prices, market and buy crops, and form new trading partnerships. In the medium-run, IPA is also running a shorter mid-line evaluative survey with users. This survey, run a year after our launch, contains customer satisfaction models that focus specifically on user feedback and solicit suggestions for ways that we can improve the system. Finally, in the most immediate-term, the close partnership between Kudu, AgriNet, and IPA allows rapid responses to operational issues through sharing of administrative data and feedback from agents in-village and hotline staff based in the headquarters, who interact most directly with sellers and buyers.
AgriNet is a large private-sector agricultural broker that currently operates in 44 districts of Uganda. It has formed numerous partnerships with development NGOs such as MercyCorps and has worked with major organizations such as USAID. In addition to their head office in Kampala, AgriNet has a regional office in the North and the East of Uganda. In each of the regional offices AgriNet works with a Regional Manager who is in charge of the whole region and Network Managers who each supervise CAs in one district. As a brokerage service, AgriNet’s primary offering is identifying potential trading partnerships. However, in light of the ability of ICT to fill much of this role in the future, AgriNet sees its unique contribution as providing additional support services needed to make these search technologies function as fully-fledged market institutions. These offerings include lines of credit to their agents to support the aggregation needed for e-bulking and insurance products for buyers who must trust the mobile marketplace enough to make investments in transportation and other costs. To cover the expense of offering these facilities, AgriNet charges a small commission on each trade for which it offers these services. We have specifically brought on this private-sector actor with an eye towards developing a sustainable business model for such service provision.