Direct to eBay: Cell Phone Assisted e-Commerce

Josh McCoy         Gillian Smith

In the last decade, the growth of e-commerce has allowed millions of people to buy and sell goods online.  Companies such as eBay and Craigslist provide a marketplace for individuals to sell their wares to people around the world.  Unfortunately, artisans in developing nations have very little access to this global marketplace, despite standing to benefit the most from its formation.  Their limited access has many causes: less advanced countries tend to have a very poor communications infrastructure, there are few business who deal directly with selling products from the third world, and the prospective sellers are often poorly educated or even illiterate, lacking the resources to sell their wares to anyone outside a small radius from their homes.  We have solved the technical limitations by harnessing the mobile communications infrastructure that is growing even in poorly developed countries.  Our system allows an artisan to take a picture of the product they are selling with their camera phone, enter their desired price and optional product description, and then simply push a button to send the information to our server.  We then harvest the information and publish it as an auction on eBay.  Once the product has been purchased, a message is sent back to the seller in the form of an SMS containing the buyer's shipping information.  Our prototype has been tested on a very small scale in the United States.  We propose extending our simple prototype to a full system working all over the world, with a focus on the third world.  With our system, sellers will go from having a small niche market in their village or town to being able to sell their wares to anyone in the world.

Final Project Documents

Direct to eBay: A Proposal

Prototype demonstration available on request:

Gillian Smith: gsmith [at]

Josh McCoy: mccoyjo [at]

Shown above are examples of the types of merchandise we expect to sell through our service.  (a)  Buddha Life Thangka Painting.  Water color with 24kt gold paint.  15" x 19".  $65.60.  (b)  Detailed copper teapot.  $12.90.  (c)  Kumari, Living Goddess of Nepal.   Mask.  11” x 8.6”.  $3.70.   

All merchandise shown available at Third World Craft Nepal.

Drafts and Reviews

Related Work Draft (Word Document)
Reviewers: Orazio Gallo (received 10/26/07), Neeraj Kumar (received 11/5/07), Steve Scher (received 11/5/07)

Introduction Draft (Word Document) - 10/31/07
Reviewers: Orazio Gallo (received 11/3/07), Neeraj Kumar (not received), Steve Scher (received 11/5/07)

Related Work Final Copy (Word Document) - 11/05/07

Initial Paper Draft - 11/26/06
Reviewers: Orazio Gallo (not received), Neeraj Kumar (not received), Steve Scher (not received)



Gamos is a company that examines social issues and development in the third world. They have a few reports regarding e-commerce options for the third world, and (separately) issues surrounding cell phone use in poor nations:

E-Commerce Options for Third World Craft Producers

A technical report from March 2002 discussing e-commerce options, and barriers that need to be overcome.

Third World Craft Nepal

A website devoted to helping Nepalese artisans sell their goods. They also have an eBay store.

eBay International Selling Toolkit

Information about how to sell goods internationally.

Mobile Phone Projects: Third World

Blog posts about cell phone use in the third world.