This is an interesting subject. Costs of using ICT are various including the development of the applications, creating information infrastructures and promotion of the service.
Many of these can be shared with a good strategy. There already exists a private sector that is involved in selling inputs eg seed dealers/companies. Partnerships can be buit with such companies.
A lot of donor projects have occurred and the issue of transfer of knowledge from these projects is now widely considered to be critical - with funds being provided for this. Hence, donors and Governments can also play a big part to avail relevant content.
In one of our projects, we did find out that most rural users lacked the knowledge to use data applications on their phones - hence the need for capacity building. I think here, mobile companies can be brought on board.
The cost of building applications can also be shared. It can either be donor funded, or it can be funded through venture capital. The problem with private funding though is that many private companies would not see profits especially where rural poor people are involved.
In brief, most of these costs can be funded through private-public partnerships and this would be good for sustainability and relevance.
Thanks for these thoughts! I think the potential for applying the concepts of mPedigree to prevent counterfeits in inputs can be high. I also imagine that stakeholders ie sellers of inputs could shoulder some of these costs. This touches on the general question of what costs and who could shoulder them?
One important player is the mobile company industry. There is stiff competition between mobile companies and many are looking at value-added services to their networks. One benefit teaming up with them is the strong marketing that they possess.
These links provide access to a study on strengthening MIS to effectively support agricultural marketing. It was one of the studies carried out under the Foodnet project (USAID funded) that successfully piloted innovative MIS ways to improve smallholder markets in East and Central Africa -
Generally I agree with you. Also problem more complicated with existance of fake inputs. I think ICT platform can help as credible users would have to be registered. However, this platform or ICT would need a promotional face that will interact with farmers. Its not enough to build an application. Its more important to show people how to use it and also to market the services thereon.
As I have tried to argue, I guess its the reason most ICT products that are nice are still failing to make business or to build large traffic/volume of users.
What we seem to learn from all the ICT products available is that its not the technical applications that matter, although these are really important. we need to get to the next stage - commercialize them, build a business model to support them. And sure the potential exists. It has to be identified or technical developers need to partner with smart entreprenuers? any contributions to this view?
Dear Shahid and all,
I think what needs to be included is a business promotion of these ICT services, where individuals talk to farmers about the service and set up back-up systems that will make access to them easier. But also the issue of credit and marketing would need to be addressed. This can enhance the value of ICT services that target to provide input information to smallholder farmers.
I recently attended a market place for financial products in Eldoret where I came accross the Icow application. This applications provides information on inputs for dairy farmers including extension information.
For more information about it go to
I also came across the system that you refer to and this is in connection with cross-border trade. within individual countries here in Eastern Africa, transport is still heavily run within the informal sector. Yes there are some companies that have come up. Therefore this is still virgin territory for ICT and I think all applications would be very much welcome. I will try to look for existing examples here and share with the team. But like I just pointed out, this is an area where new knowledge can be brought here from the developed world and I think companies/individuals in the developed world should come over to explore the ground here. I do think that technologies are now available. Its time for development projects to facilitate transfer to such technologies through private partnerships between local firms and international companies?
Dixie, its quite intresting that the price that rural farmes receive is 100 percent less than that in the nearest collection center in some cases. While margins may vary, generally the margins received by rural assemblers ( rural traders transacting between rural households and the long distance traders/inter district travelling traders) are almost 100%.
On one of the applications that we worked on here in Uganda to try and connect markets where farmers posted offers to sell and buyers were posting offers to buy, we did find that traders were still not interested in going beyond the rural assembly points ( usually roadsite marketing points). They said that much as a particular farmer or farmer group has posted an offer to sell, traders from far away do not know where and how to locate them. In the end this would be costly for them trying to find out who these farmers/farmer is. They also wanted to bargain as they look at the product.
This finding indicates that while ICTs can enable farmers to know the prices, still they would need to be supported with marketing infrastructures/points that are easily accessible. They need to assemble their products where traders can easily meet them. I also met this scenario in Tanzania where big buyers were not intrested in dealing with individual farmer and prefering to deal with rural assemblers. They argued that the transaction costs are much higher as one gets to the household level.
I think this is an area where NGOs should play a leading role in setting up collection marketing points and then support rural farmers to easily deliver their supplies/products to such points.
ICT is about providing information but by itself, it cannot lead to increased efficiency of the marketing system.
Yes Tim the issue of scaling up is still a challenge. Our experience is that first of all these were donor driven without a sense of business models being built. Thereafter, the issue of privatization was also sort of driven by donors. Those who tried to privatize also rushed into charging user fees without building on quality, acceptability and credibility.
Yes you are right about all the issues you raise but I think one crucial thing is a business approach/plan that will see this out. Promotion is important like all businesses. But quality has to be built first, numbers have to be built and then an affordable user fee established.
Another issue involves enabling small users access markets. This is an added service that needs to be done so that small-holders see the benefits of the system and probably create montly subscriptions. In otherwords, the system should operate alongside marketing efforts that help small holders realize increased revenues.