Why Don’t Farmers Use Cell Phones to Access Market Prices? Technology Affordances and Barriers to Market Information Services Adoption in Rural Kenya

Categories : Agriculture, Customer and Users of Digital Payments


Author: Sarah Corley

Providing smallholder farmers with agricultural information could improve economic development, by helping them grow more crops which they could then sell for more money. Widespread mobile phone ownership in Africa means that, for the first time, there is a realistic opportunity to deliver pertinent information to remote farmers throughout the continent. Efforts to harness the potential of mobile phones include the development of agricultural market information services (MIS)—applications that send farmers crop pricing information via short message service or SMS. These services promote economic development among some farmers in the developing world, but not yet in rural Kenya. To understand what factors impede the adoption of these services, this paper by Wyche & Steinfield qualitatively studied Kenyan farmers’ mobile phone usage patterns and their interactions with MFarm, a commercially available MIS. Using affordance theory to guide the analysis, a mismatch between the design of MIS and smallholder farmers’
perceptions of their mobile phones’ communication capabilities were discovered. These findings were used to motivate a design agenda that encourages software developers and development practitioners to adopt an ecological perspective when creating mobile applications for sub-Saharan Africa’s rural farmers. Strategies for implementing this approach include reconsidering the design of mobile phones, and developing innovative educational interventions.