Assessing the Impact of Mobiles
Few technologies have grown as quickly and as pervasively as mobile phones. In ten short years, they have gone from devices for the wealthy to increasingly accessible – and intelligent – tools. Perhaps nowhere is the impact as great as in rural areas, where the mobile phone is an enormous change in the ability of the poor to access and share information.
The mobile phone is quickly becoming appropriated within agricultural practices. In a recent report commissioned by Vodafone, a global telecom provider, and completed by Accenture, a consultancy, the impact of mobile phones in driving sustainable farming was assessed through a value chain approach. The report found significant scope for impact throughout the agricultural sector, including enhancing farming efficiency and improving access for smallholders to markets.
(Photos: From Vodafone report)
Increasingly sophisticated applications of mobile devices are also changing agriculture. For example, although mobile financial services began as simply peer-to-peer value transfer systems, they are increasingly being harnessed for services such as insurance and lending, improving farmers’ ability to manage their wealth and crops.
By improving existing practices, mobile phones can benefit those already engaged in agriculture. For example, the report noted that because the majority of poor farmers are women, benefits may accrue specifically to them. However, in addition to being additive, Dame Barbara Stocking, the CEO of Oxfam, emphasized that mobile phones can be transformative, leading to wholly new ways of doing business.
In closing, the study recommends tighter linkages between the various stakeholders and their advantages. For example, while the private sector is inherently focused on sustainability, NGOs often have better grassroots networks, and governments can provide enabling environments and support public goods (such as information). Putting these together, as the report documented in a number of successful cases, can do much to improve agricultural livelihoods.