A GPS tool helps to optimise rice sowing.
Photo: ©Jörg Böthling


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Information and communication technologies have seen rapid advances since the beginning of the millennium. While they hold a huge potential for rural areas, new Internet developments such as the “Internet of Things” and “Big Data” are set to create further opportunities. However, our authors argue that there is still much room for improvements, especially by bringing the many IT initiatives together on user-friendly platforms for farmers and other rural small businesses.

Already in the early 2000s, when the rapid spread of the mobile phone was about to take off, our research identified the poverty reduction potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries. At the time, mobile phones were largely accessible through fledgling, though fast growing phone rental services, for instance in Bangladesh and, in some cases, in Africa. Development planners were sceptical about ICT. Much has changed since then and ICTs have evolved far beyond what was imagined at the time. Today, we can safely say that digital technology will be a game changer for inclusive development and positive rural change.

Bringing advanced mobile technologies to rural Africa

Today, mobile technologies are being used to offer services to farmers that seek to improve access to inputs, financial services and markets, gather and disseminate information and facilitate social learning and exchange. The impacts are significant. For instance, farmers are better informed about market opportunities, for example in Ethiopia through digital display boards in 29 regional centres of the Commodity Exchange, or by SMS services in many African countries.

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