In the quest to proliferate sustainable agricultural practices with farmers in developing countries, the current developments around the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICT) provide new opportunities. Affordability and increasing capacity of mobile technology, like smartphones, is putting ICT into the hands of an ever-growing number of people. Yet, despite this potential, the basic business model insights by which the value of technology can be fully utilised in emerging rural economy contexts, are yet to be appraised.
Lack of basic user insights
To better understand what is required to employ ICT in supporting sustainable agricultural development and food security in emerging economies, LEI Wageningen UR conducted an exploratory research assignment commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. A multidisciplinary team of technology, design, and business experts looked into adoption and utilization of ICT-based products and services with smallholder farmers in Kenya and India. In our research we found that many projects in this field struggle to gain traction. A repeating pattern is the lack of basic user insights for rendering technology solutions to products and service that are of immediate relevance for the intended users, and accessible in their operating circumstances.
We advise future projects in this field to take on the perspective of human-centered design, being a proven process to problem identification and solution development. By designing experiments based on empathetic understanding of targeted end users, human centered design fosters a basis for rigorous testing of viable, feasible, and desirable alternatives for products and services, as well as for the business models that can bring them to market. Through such an approach of experimentation and iterative learning, projects are more likely to cope with the risks and uncertainties of product and service development in inherently vagarious emerging market contexts.