ICT: Changing the Face of Agriculture
October 16, 2011 Editor 0
The mere mention of agriculture conjures, for many, outmoded images of a backbreaking industry. It’s an image that holds true in some places where few farmers utilize contemporary farming technologies and techniques.
But ICTs play an increasingly important role in agricultural value chains. Though important, cellphones aren’t the only ICT being used to improve agriculture. ICTs encompass radios, digital cameras, geographic information systems (GIS), cloud computing, tracking mechanisms, etc.
Five ways in which ICT can help tackle key challenges in agricultural value chain development are:
- Pricing and weather information systems
- Applications (apps) to help buyers manage transactions with the thousands of small-scale farmers who supply to them
- Mobile banking and apps that facilitate quick payments
- Initiatives to expand the reach of farm extension services through phone, radio, video and sometimes all three
- SMS or text messaging campaigns for enabling environment advocacy
The increasingly important role of ICTs in agriculture can help change the face of the sector (from outmoded to cutting edge). In fact, it should form part of the larger thrust to attract more young people to the sector. In a resent blog I contend that there’s a strong link between ICTs and general youth employment. Agriculture is no exception. ICTs offer employment opportunities in the sector that are both attractive to young people and are in demand. I recently reviewed two unpublished labor market surveys for Rwanda and Kenya that confirms this.
The interesting bit of the research is that while less than a third of the youth surveyed expressed an interest in ag jobs, more than 40% saw opportunities in ICT related areas (not including ag). Clearly, showing the link between the two (ICT and Ag) should be a starting point. Three ICT-enabled functions that are in demand by industry and appeal to young people are agriculture input sales, logistics tech and agricultural infomediaries—the latter being the most cited, perhaps due to the well touted successes of M-Kilimi (M-agriculture), Esoko and others.
The rationale for Ag infomediaries, which enable quick access to information databases that were previously unavailable, best underscores how ICTs have improved agriculture in some places. The basic concept is that the economic livelihood of farmers has been hampered by ad hoc marketing systems and broader issues of information asymmetries for centuries. In other words, poor communication between producers and buyers results in inadequate planning, and ultimately an unstable market environment. So, In much the same way the global economy is driven by knowledge, agriculture depends on high quality, reliable and efficient information systems.
While the full impact of ICTs on ag is subject to research, there is compelling evidence about successful use of technologies in the sector.
Go to Source
- 8 Lessons Learned to Improve ICT-enabled FM Radio Station Sustainability
- Gender Assessment of ICT Access and Usage in Africa
- Agriculture: A knowledge-based Industry
- Agricultural research ‘urgently needs more women’
- 3 Uncommon Ways ICT Can Aid Delivery of High Impact Agricultural Research and Development
- How Is Technology Causing Breakthroughs in Youth Economic Opportunity?
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