2010 Dec 2
I heard a very stimulating talk by Nathan Eagle from Jana. It is an oblique angle on cellular money. Jana has business arrangements with 230 cellular system operators. Jana can transfer prepaid minutes to any of the cell phones of one of these operators via software that Jana has produced. It can also send and receive SMS messages from these phones. It has informal relationships with many of the users of these phones. With this technology it has instituted several fascinating lines of business.

As described elsewhere on these pages some cell phone operators allow minutes to be pushed from one cell phone to another. Eagle noted that it is seldom possible to push from a phone of one mobile operator to a phone of another operator. Jana can push time to any cell phone of these 230 operators. It is not limited to those operators who support push from individual phones.

Earlier Eagle was working as a programmer for a cell phone service provider in Nairobi. He rented a little office space in an air conditioned hospital there. He became aware of a system of redistributing blood in Kenya that was driven by information that was weeks old.The initial service was reporting blood bank inventories by type at hospitals in Kenya to co├Ârdinate redistribution. An earlier redistribution system had a several week information latency. With the new system nurses would send reports as SMS messages by phone. This early success faded as the cost of sending the messages was borne by individual nurses with neither monetary nor verbal acknowledgment. When Jana began to return the cost of sending the report, plus a bit extra, as prepaid time, the reports resumed, at least in part because the reports were seen by the senders as valued by the recipients.

Another venture is to gather market information, such as prices, from a broadly distributed set of individuals. Jana collects redundant information and scores the contributors to improve accuracy. Many other sorts of information suit this pattern.

Recent articles: Gigaom: [2009 2011 2011 2012] xconomy, huffingtonpost, marketwire, Worldbank