Bridging the digital divide in the agricultural ecosystem-Mayur Varandani


A growing number of agricultural technologies have proven that they can support the overall development of the agricultural sector, and there are many supporting examples.

More than half of the world’s population is now connected to the Internet, with more than 90% using mobile phones to connect digitally. Over the past decade, the widespread availability of mobile phones and access to mobile internet has been a game-changer for digital inclusion; in fact, you might be reading this article on your phone right now! Digital technologies are increasingly used in all sectors of the economy, including health, finance, education, infrastructure, e-commerce and retail.

The agricultural sector has not been spared from this change and has seen an increase in the adoption of digital technologies in various activities. Some of the use cases for the technology in agriculture include weather information and planting recommendations provided by mobile phone, drones and GPS mapping to provide personalized advice on the use of fertilizers, pesticides and soil management. the water ; remote sensors to verify crop insurance claims; digital platforms to provide direct commercial links between farmers and consumers, and digital financial services to provide farmers with low-interest loans with easy repayments. These solutions have the potential to help address some of the most pressing issues facing the sector, including low productivity and low yields, climate change vulnerabilities, lack of access to credit and weak linkages. with the market.

Despite these technological developments in the agricultural sector, the adoption of digital solutions remains low among vulnerable and marginalized populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While these gaps remain, there is a growing consensus among industry experts on some of the challenges smallholder farmers face in adopting digital technologies in agriculture.

A growing number of agricultural technologies have proven that they can support the overall development of the agricultural sector, and there are many supporting examples. However, for these technologies to reach their full potential and inclusively benefit all actors in the agricultural sector, additional action by key stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem may be required. Some illustrative examples are provided below, although they are by no means exhaustive.

● Foundations and donors

Scaling digital inclusion in underserved populations may require deploying patient capital over time in long-term programs. To incentivize the private sector to engage, a “pay for success” financing method could be used, in which a promise is made to pay for better social outcomes while digitizing the agricultural ecosystem (example: Peru Climate-Smart Agriculture DIB).

● Regulators and policy makers

The agribusiness community is witnessing an increase in the number of social entrepreneurs who provide various services to smallholder farmers. However, helping rural people adopt digital solutions may require a nationwide digital inclusion initiative that can inspire confidence and build capacity for smallholder farmers. A constant focus on building a digital foundation may be needed, starting with explaining the “technology” and moving towards long-term benefits, use and adoption (example: National Gender Resource Center in Agriculture (NGRCA) in India).

● Companies

The private sector, including multinational corporations and local businesses, can help promote digitalization and provide capacity development assistance to supply chain actors through digital literacy initiatives. This can incentivize farmers to choose and adopt digital solutions (examples: Cargill’s ‘Digital Saathi’ – an AI-based local online service platform and Arifu – agronomic advice and financial skills training on mobile for farmers in Kenya).

● NGOs and other ecosystem actors

Understanding how people interact with each other and knowing the processes and procedures of government departments can enable local institutions, including NGOs, mobile network operators (MNOs), social enterprises and other actors in the ecosystem to design and foster trust among smallholder farmers, thereby driving the adoption of digital solutions (example: Digital Agricultural Innovations and Services Initiative (DAISI) and GSMA’s AgriTech program).

While such initiatives have made strides in improving digital inclusion and access to technology in farming communities, there is still a long way to go before this digital divide is truly closed and ICT-based tools are available and used appropriately by all.

At the ICTforAg 2022 conference, we will discuss the different approaches and solutions that contribute to bridging the digital divide. Some of the interesting topics we will cover under this theme include:

▪ Commercialization of ICTforAg solutions for women farmers and by women entrepreneurs

▪ Behavior change for adoption and continued use of ICTforAg solutions

▪ Digital inclusion of indigenous peoples, linguistic and ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ communities and people with disabilities

▪ Programs enabling the inclusion of young people in agriculture

▪ Sustainable digital literacy delivery models

▪ Hybrid models for digital inclusion and digitization of the value chain


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