Qualcomm and FHI 360 bring innovative mobile app to Senegal’s fisheries industry

An innovative mobile app from the Wireless Solutions for Fisheries in Senegal (WISE) project is changing the economic outlook for thousands in Senegal’s fisheries industry. The app delivers real-time market information, SOS features and early warning alerts, and best practices information, among other features. A collaboration among FHI 360, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, the Senegalese Food Security Commission and Free Senegal, the project has already been implemented in Senegal’s four major fish landing and processing sites, and the government plans to scale to other locales and industries.

The project is nominated for the World Summit on the Information Society Prizes, supported by the United Nations, for the impact it has had on the economic outlook for thousands in Senegal’s fisheries industry.

Learn more about the WISE project. A version of the below feature story originally appeared on FHI 360. Reposted with permission.


Wireless technology boosts Senegal’s fishing industry

In Senegal, where 30 percent of rural households experience food insecurity, fish are a critical source of nutrition, and the fisheries industry provides jobs for more than 600,000 people. Artisanal fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish and sell to wholesale fish markets and small-scale fish processors, who are predominantly women. The industry’s overall economic growth, however, has been hampered by a lack of access to timely wholesale prices, scant knowledge of improved processing techniques, limited financial services, exposure to health risks and poor hygiene at processing sites.

But, an innovative mobile application developed by the Wireless Solutions for Fisheries in Senegal (WISE) project is changing the economic outlook for thousands. A collaboration among FHI 360, Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, the Senegalese Food Security Commission and Free Senegal, the WISE project enhances the competitive advantage of artisanal fishermen and fish processors.

The app provides:

  • Current market information
  • Ocean and weather forecasts
  • An SOS feature in case of emergency at sea
  • Best practices information via text, audio and video
  • Geofencing to alert fishermen to international borderlines and restricted or danger zones
  • GPS tools for safe navigation to and from fishing spots
  • A “fishnet locator” that enables fishermen to avoid nets cast in the ocean
  • An early warning message system to communicate information about hazards at sea

WISE also partners with local microlending institutions to make affordable loans available to fishermen and fish processors who want to grow their businesses.

The app is available in English, French and Swahili, and is compatible for 3G/4G-enabled Android smartphones with GPS capability. Based on user feedback, the WISE team recently added an artificial intelligence (AI) feature to make the app easier to use. Now, fishermen and fish processors can speak to the app via a “chatbot” and ask questions about the app’s features. The AI chatbot can even understand slang and local terms.

Since its launch in 2014, WISE has been deployed in Senegal’s four major fish landing and processing sites: Dakar, Joal, Mballing and Mbour. Services, however, are available free of charge to anyone with access to smartphones and the internet. The project has also supported more than 200 low-income economic interest groups, serving more than 5,200 fishermen and fish processors by providing smartphones and internet access to enable them use WISE services.

Overall, fish processing capacity has increased tenfold from about 100 kilograms per month to 1,000 kilograms per month. As a result, fishermen increased their income by as much as US$550, or 35 percent, annually.

Demand for the WISE platform is growing as word spreads. The community radio station in Joal has started to broadcast information, such as market prices, from WISE to the broader community. And Free Senegal, one of Senegal’s leading mobile phone providers, will soon launch a program providing smartphones at reduced rates to additional people in the industry.

The national government has taken notice of WISE’s impact. Senegal’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications, which guides digital interventions to spur economic growth, is making plans to expand WISE nationwide. The ministry will hold a conference in early 2020 to discuss scale-up pathways.

Award will continue work to advance contraceptive technology innovation

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — FHI Partners, a subsidiary of FHI 360, has been awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand and strengthen our portfolio of work under the Contraceptive Technology Innovation (CTI) Initiative. Following an initial award made by the foundation in 2013, this additional four-year investment will support ongoing work to advance the development and evaluation of several new contraceptive leads, with the ultimate goal of expanding access to high quality, affordable and acceptable products for those most in need in low-income countries.

microneedle patch being applied to arm
Photo credit: Gary Meek/Georgia Institute of Technology

The contraceptive technologies that will continue to be supported through the CTI Initiative include a biodegradable microneedle patch, biodegradable implant systems, longer-acting self-injectable contraceptives and a smaller copper intrauterine device. Under the new award, FHI 360 will build upon and strengthen established relationships with current product development partners and continue to facilitate collaboration through global knowledge sharing, including through the CTI Exchange platform.

Currently, an estimated 214 million women in developing countries want to avoid or delay pregnancy but are not using a contraceptive. “Our portfolio of products has tremendous potential to offer new, safe, effective, low-cost, easy to use and appealing contraceptive technologies to women in greatest need around the world,” said Dr. Laneta Dorflinger, Distinguished Scientist at FHI 360 and Director of the CTI Initiative. “We are addressing existing technology gaps by advancing products with attributes that women want but are lacking among current family planning options.”

Work under the CTI Initiative builds on FHI 360’s experience over four decades of research, development and introduction of new contraceptive methods. “A cornerstone of our approach is applying innovative drug delivery platforms that are being explored or used in other therapeutic areas to the field of contraception,” said Dr. Gregory S. Kopf, Director, Research and Development within FHI 360’s CTI Initiative. “Through the Gates-funded project, we collaborate with partners, including product development scientists, universities, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing groups and service delivery organizations. For example, we have collaborated with the Georgia Institute of Technology on exciting work to evaluate whether microneedle skin patch technology could be used to develop a long-acting contraceptive. We look forward to growing and strengthening this and other collaborations under this new award.”

Several of the approaches being advanced through the CTI Initiative are also supported with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and other donors.

For more information about the CTI Initiative, please contact us. Read more about FHI Partners.

FHI 360 welcomes Ricardo Michel, new Managing Director of FHI Partners

DURHAM, NC — FHI 360 announced today that Ricardo Michel, a leader in international development and finance, will oversee the organization’s newest subsidiary, FHI Partners. FHI Partners seeks to add to FHI 360’s ability to scale social impact by providing client-focused services that are customized to meet the specific needs of corporations and foundations.

Ricardo Michel, MBA, CPA Managing Director, FHI PartnersMichel brings more than 25 years of leadership in both the private and public sectors. Prior to joining FHI 360, Michel served as the Executive Vice President of AMEX International, Inc., an international development consulting firm, where he managed strategic business development and operations. Michel previously served as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he was responsible for public-private partnerships. In addition to driving the agency’s private-sector engagement efforts, he played an integral role in conceptualizing and launching the U.S. Global Development Lab.

“FHI Partners is an example of how we continue to innovate as an organization by developing new business models that are fit-for-purpose,” said Patrick Fine, Chief Executive Officer of FHI 360. “We are extremely fortunate to have a distinguished and versatile leader like Ricardo join our ranks to oversee FHI Partners and increase our ability to deliver social impact.”

Before USAID, Michel spent several years structuring project finance transactions at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. He also served as a Senior Trade and Investment Advisor for the U.S. African Development Foundation and was instrumental in establishing the foundation’s trade and investment initiative for small and medium enterprises. Michel worked for several years as an investment banker and began his career as a certified public accountant.

“FHI Partners provides an exciting opportunity to create innovative strategic partnerships that focus on shared value – impact that benefits both business and society,” said Michel. “I am eager to build on FHI 360’s prolific work by partnering with new and existing clients to generate even greater social impact through our collective action.”