For better or worse and in ways large and small, social networks really have changed the way the world does business. Just ask the music industry. Sites like Myspace and Facebook have absolutely changed the old standard methodology used by record labels to market bands and artists. Twitter has accentuated the “word of mouth” philosophy in advertising more than anything else in the past. A film studio can run all of the television ads they want to for their next film, but if it turns out that film is subpar and a hoard of twitter users tweet to their followers saying as much, that studio is going to have trouble combatting that…Read more
Social media has had a detrimental impact on print journalism, thanks to the vast difference in communication speed. Even the world of political campaigning has seen a change. President Barack Obama’s 2008 run for the White House most likely would not have been as successful were it not for the ingenious idea of his campaign staff to exploit social media for fundraising, which was a real political first. Social networking has revolutionized so many aspects in our lives, even in corners of the world we wouldn’t necessarily assume so, like remote farming villages in Indonesia. The new social networking site 8villages is seeing to it.
The website, which was put together by French entrepreneur and agronomist Mathieu Le Bras, has proven to be transformative for the way Indonesian farmers interact and do their work. According to the website’s main page, one of the goals of this site is to provide “a highly scalable platform for farmers to generate microblog posts, share brand comparison, give feedbacks on products and farming techniques, and attend trainings provided by experts.” In order to set up the site, Le Bras partnered with Dr. Yusep Rosmansyah, a local telecommunications scientist. Although the project is still in its experimental phase, it has proven to quite popular for the 900 plus users using it.
Le Bras, Rosmansyah and their other partners are looking to expand the website nationwide within the next six months, and they have dreams of crossing the international borders into countries like Vietnam and the Philippines as well. As of right now, users of the site use it exclusively via mobile phone. According to United Nations estimates, about 73% of the rural population in southeast Asia has access to some form of mobile technology, but a whopping 68% of that same population report an insufficient access to timely, accurate and critical information regarding their livelihood. Since a majority of the population in southeast Asia is in the farming industry, this lack of instant communication can have a calamitous effect on the people and the economy. If anything, 8villages is looking to serve as the first humanitarian social networking site.
But it’s not an entirely humanitarian venture; there are certainly capitalistic motives in play as well. Indonesia represents a perfect location for a technological experiment of this nature. Like the rest of the region, Indonesia is experiencing something of an economic boom, possibly at an even more accelerated rate than its neighbors. Tech companies like Nokia and Research in Motion are eager to expand to the country, and many experts in the field are predicting that the suburbs of Jakarta, the nation’s capital, will soon become something akin to the Silicon Valley of southeast Asia. The upper and upper-middle class of the country has become increasingly tech savvy, yet the lower class farming community that keeps the economy afloat is desperately in need of better technology. Therefore, the tech industry is looking to invest.
8villages is certainly an outlier in the community of social networks. Whereas sites like Facebook and Pinterest can be sources for useful information and news, they can also be utilized as nothing more than a haven for videos of cats playing the piano. Le Bras and Rosmansyah have other ideas for this ever-changing global economy, and so far, their site looks to be an unbridled success.