Private companies and government departments are given a lot of opportunities to transfer knowledge and information through the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries.
Asia, Africa, and Latin America have rapidly expanded mobile phone coverage in recent years. In 2009, it was reported that over 60 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America could access mobile phones.
Before, mobile phones were mainly used by urbanites and the rich in both developed and developing countries. Mobile phones are being increasingly adopted by rural and urban populations in developing countries, providing them with easy access to weather, market information, and other topics related to the environment.
There has been a significant decrease in the costs of communication and information for rural residents due to mobile phones. This type of technology has made it possible for rural farmers to obtain information and knowledge about agricultural issues, problems, and the use of this technology to further their careers.
Similarly, mobile phone services in the agricultural sector have enhanced contacts with agricultural service providers by providing information on market, weather, transportation, and agricultural techniques. Farmers now have much more freedom when it comes to making tentative decisions using their mobile phones.
By using mobile phones, farmers and business people are able to improve social relationships and increase social cohesion. Social relations, however, have improved since SMS and voice recordings were implemented. A recent study shows that social networking on mobile phones is on the rise, especially in developing countries. Mobile phones are also considered important for agriculture development.
A range of agricultural inputs including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc., need to be made available to farmers. Land preparation, intercropping, water management, harvesting, and so many other farm activities require farmers to maintain current knowledge and information regarding them. A mobile phone, radio, or television could pass on this information using information communication technology. Different developing countries are still very expensive when it comes to mobile phones, which mean that the poor farmers and entrepreneurs cannot afford to purchase this technology.
Additionally, in areas such as rural Kenya, there is a considerable consideration for the cost of phones, maintenance factors and the costs of recharging phones. The findings in this study revealed that there are important similarities between the ways in which the poor and small entrepreneurs use mobile phones.
In rural areas of developing countries, low quality of services provided by companies and a lack of interest by the private sector in developing ICT programs for agricultural development were major issues for the development of agriculture development. Rural communities and farmers also faced a lack of knowledge in using ICT, and one study in Malaysia reported a low usage of ICT among rural communities, in particular farmers.
Farmers also lacked knowledge about mobile phones to use in order to stay in touch with their family and friends due to illiteracy. Farmers couldn’t contact relevant officers or departments and couldn’t get information about market prices, weather or pesticides even when they received information from ICT.
It was found that mobile phones were very effective in providing basic agricultural information. If we consider mobile companies in Malaysia, such as DIGI, CELCOM, MAXIS and U-MOBILE, they may offer new options and ways for farmers to communicate with market and agriculture extension officers so they can get information about the latest market rates and weather forecasts.
Using mobile phones for fertilizer advice was the subject of one extension programme in the Philippine that had a positive result for the farmers. Using mobile phones to deliver fertilizer advice was given a positive result to the farmers, and their yields improved. A similar method is used in Kenya to inform farmers about the cost of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides used to protect crops against bad weather by using mobile phones linked to solar powered weather stations.
A major development was in Uganda where a mobile phone was used to deliver certified seeds and fertilizers to farmers. Mobile phones have a significant impact on low income groups in terms of economic development.
Among poor farmers in developing countries, the use of modern technology in agriculture could be unexpected and have profound effects on agriculture. Small farmers in the past had a hard time gaining market information, but now they can easily access it with a mobile phone.
Researchers conducted a study in Tanzania by deploying farmers near cities who were called “market spies” so on the phone they could get information about the current price of the product while in the market.
A pilot mobile project was created in Tanzania to educate farmers and buyers on strategies for developing and sharing knowledge and experience to meet their identified needs. With the help of mobile phones, farmers were able to collaborate and share their experiences so that they could develop new ways for boosting their income.
Through mobile phones, farmers are able to save money and time spent traveling. In addition, mobile technology makes it possible to reach markets or new customers who otherwise would be inaccessible.
It may be helpful for cattle farmers to use the mobile phone to contact veterinary officers in order to learn more about communicable diseases. In this way, attitudes toward cattle during calving may change and new ways of thinking may reduce stillbirths in calves. The use of mobile phones to identify and manage livestock diseases has been studied by animal health workers and farmers in Kenya; the study found that mobile phones reduced transport costs and made disease management easier.
Using mobile phones, farmers can get livestock and agricultural information from authorities. According to another research study, dairy farmers used to travel many miles to the main market to find buyers before the introduction of mobile phones. With the adoption of mobile phones, dairy farmers in Uganda have access to even further information and can communicate with buyers and suppliers by using SMSs to negotiate good prices to sell their milk.
To sell their products in markets, farmers need to be able to communicate easily with people using mobile phones. In addition, the government and other relevant authorities should plan to reach these farmers and offer them up-to-date information about seed, weather, and market conditions at the right time, as well as a fair price for their products.