TODAY, I have this in stock.
“It is a question of infrastructure,” explained Rebecca Birungi from UMWA. “Sometimes it is rainy, the road is bad, and the transporters of produce from rural areas need to put in more fuel or change a tire. You have to be prepared for all these obstacles. And once they arrive in town and distribute the produce to the market women, it is the woman who suffers and receives a price that is not fair.”
In planning for future interventions in Bugolobi Market, how could the women benefit from a publicly accessible web page that listed market prices in Kampala?
“It would be very good for Nakasero Market to list the prices for the day. That would be the best,” commented Joan. “But it is up to the market women to understand that this could give them an advantage. Right now, those people find out prices through the radio stations, not from the markets themselves. Posho is like this, sugar is like that. You don’t know if the radio has even gone to the market.”
“The business reporters go to Nakawa, Nakasero…the three main markets. Beans are this price here, then Nakawa has this price. Then you compare. Nakawa is much cheaper for beans, so I will go there,” continues Rebecca. “This is also what people do in supermarkets. And actually, there are things people buy from supermarkets that are different from what they buy in the shops. If you want fresh bread, you go to the supermarket. In the shops, maybe it might have stayed for too days and it might not be good. But if you want sugar, if you go to a shop, it is affordable. But if you go to a supermarket, the price increases. In the supermarket, it is 3,500 UGX. In the shop, it is 3,000 UGX.”
“Having access to the Internet could help the women learn new business ideas,” says Catherine.
“And having access to a collective market website could help the women advertise promotions, that ‘TODAY, I have this in stock,’” adds Joan.
There seem to be many possibilities. Women are eager to know the prices in other markets, to see how they could adjust their own daily prices. Although the majority of the market women have never used Facebook, they view it as a possible tool for both social and business purposes. I hope to set up a system where women can SMS their variety of offerings and prices to a publicly accessible web page. Maybe it is a splash page for each market, or maybe the web pages are digitally connected, just as they are intricately physically connected. How can Twitter and Facebook both facilitate and add new dimensions to this process?
But almost more importantly, I need to better understand the social fabric of the market. Who’s in charge? Where do the tentacles of the market reach through the runner system, where women deliver lunch to shop owners in the surrounding Bugolobi area? What is the hierarchy of women, whether selling vegetables, cooking, or delivering food? And what is the role of men in the market?
I also need to investigate their views on ownership. How could collectively saving for, purchasing, and then sharing a smart phone with Internet access make or break relationships in the market? Which women could train and lead other women in learning how to use the Internet to benefit their businesses? Given the opportunity, how would women use the Internet during their ‘leisure time’ at 4pm after the lunch rush? And how could having a wi-fi hotspot bring in more customers as they access the Internet through their phones or laptops?