The promise (and pitfalls) of ICT for agriculture initiatives uri icon

abstract

  • The widespread growth of information and telecommunication technologies (ICTs) in rural areas of developing countries offers new opportunities to provide more timely and low-cost information services to farmers, as well as assist in coordinating agricultural agents. Over the past decade, the number of public and private sector initiatives in this space has increased substantially, with over 140 deployments worldwide in 2015. While there is substantial potential for such services to address farmers' and traders' information and credit market constraints, economic research suggests that the impacts of such services on agricultural adoption, behavior and welfare is mixed. While this can, in part, be explained by the degree of the information asymmetry and the presence of other market failures in different contexts, research from other disciplines provides additional insights into these findings. In particular, work in the domain of human-computer interaction (HCI) focuses heavily on users' interaction and experience with a given technology, thus explaining why users may not fully engage with ICT-based agricultural interfaces. Furthermore, sociological and anthropological approaches study the provision of information and trust and how these may be altered by ICT platforms. Drawing upon these disciplines, we suggest that future ICT for agriculture initiatives should first seek to better understand the information and complementary market failures in a given context, in order to better understand whether information is a binding constraint. Second, even if information is missing, the information services provided should be of high quality and from a trusted source, which can be a challenge with some ICT platforms. Finally, such services should be delivered via platforms that build upon local ICT access and usage, paying particular attention to the gender digital divide.

publication date

  • 2016
  • 2016