How to enable smallholder farmers to use ICTs?
In this blog post, Ajit Maru describes all the requirements an ICT product has to have to be usable for the farmer: the hardware, the software, connectivity, skills, content, security and safety in use, privacy and a profitable and productive environment. But, he points out, some problems can rise up: for example, in many countries women are frowned upon or even prohibited to have a smartphone. Another problem is the cost: for a smallholder farmer in India earning about INR 60.000 per year, a smartphone costs no less than INR 5.000, and connectivity costs around INR 100 per month.
According to the author, the public, the private and the community will have to work together to ensure effective ICT use for farmers. The government should regulate and monitor the availability, access and affordability of the technologies, while the private sector should provide the hardware, the software, the connectivity and the content.
In India, the government has invested significantly in digital information systems for agricultural use such as E-NAM and I-KISAN. But many information systems function as silos and hardly offer an integrated approach, for example giving agricultural and market information as well as financial services.
The author finally suggests that the open data movement now gathering pace across the world can play a very important role in enabling smallholder farmers to effectively use ICTs. Open data can make new technology more affordable and enable innovation and transparency. In parallel, governments should accelerate the open movement through policies, strategies, regulatory mechanisms and structures that support open access and use of data, information and technologies.