/ July 29, 2008

Italy’s Text for Food Program

In the face of rising food prices worldwide, many countries have devised creative means of ensuring that their people can still afford to be well fed. For some in the U.S., urban gardens have provided a price shock absorber, as well as a source of urban renewal and communal unity, while across the globe the thrifty and environmentally conscious have been shifting to vegetarian and local diets. One of the most innovative methods has been implemented in Italy, which has begun to facilitate smart shopping and price-checking for its citizens using SMS technology.

Partnered with consumer advocacy organizations, Italy’s government has set up a text messaging program that allows shoppers to check average food prices for their region against the prices asked at their local markets. If a shopper is looking to purchase a tomato, for example, she may enter the type of produce in a free text to the number, and will receive the average prices and wholesale price in a return message.

Tom Standage, business editor at the Economist, explains to the BBC that the function of the text messaging service is to empower consumers with information, which in turn will create more efficient markets. While the success of the service is yet to be measured, it may provide a local model for dealing with the global food crisis, one likely to be emulated in markets worldwide.

Source: The BBC

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