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Nokia has recently begun selling information to some of the poorest farmers on this planet.

According to various news sources, in Nigeria, China, India and Indonesia, Nokia has “entered into commercial partnerships with agricultural extension and weather agencies, which collate, edit, package and translate weather, market news and pricing data in more than 13 local languages”.

Nokia is selling this information for around $1.75 per month, equivalent to a day’s wages in many countries, including Nigeria.

And that’s not all. “For another $1.40 a month, Nigerian mobile users can receive daily texts, with graphics, on health and disease news, English language training or entertainment and sports news.”

To put this in context, poor farmers who can least afford it have to pay to access information that is available freely to anyone who speaks a first world language like English.

Nokia has realized that information is so important that the poor will pay for it if they have to. I would have thought this is where we could count on Google.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible. This might be slightly overstating the reality. Google, in fact, is serving up first world knowledge in first world languages.

Making knowledge more accessible means better economic growth, longer lives, better health and productivity, higher educational levels, new scientific discoveries, and so on. We all benefit from sharing knowledge.

Google has a clear business model for monetizing access to knowledge. Imagine the advertising revenues when the other 4/5ths of the people on this planet start accessing the Internet through their cellphones! Nokia certainly recognizes the potential of the developing world: they have a large share of the humongous cellphone markets in countries like China and India. But Google seems to lack momentum in their Africa policy.

Until they do, poor farmers will have to sacrifice a day’s wages each month to access basic information you and I can get for free.

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