Food Security

A Participatory Designed M-Agriculture Solution for Rural Livelihood Promotion

Posted by admin on Dec 19, 2011
A Participatory Designed M-Agriculture Solution for Rural Livelihood Promotion data sheet 641 Views
Dr.Rizvi, S.M. Haider, Dr. Andy Dearden
Publication Date: 
Oct 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

 The paper is based on the findings and experiences of the Rural e-Services Project in India (ReSPI) which resulted in designing of Knowledge Help Extension Technology Initiative (KHETI).

ReSPI was an action research project to bridge the socio-economic divide digitally. The project has demonstrated that a right approach with appropriate mix of methodologies and social context could lead the designing of  Information Communication Technology (ICT) solutions.

In the after math of the project and development of KHETI Technology, claims could be made that designing of Information Communication Technology solutions are very much possible with so called ‘less privileged groups’ using participatory interaction design methodologies and treating users as co-designers.

The paper describes strengths and challenges in the participatory designing processes of KHETI as an M-Agriculture system and examines how it addresses the problems of local poor farmers by recognising their socio-economic realities.


Connected Agriculture: The role of mobile in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain

Posted by EKStallings on Oct 25, 2011
Connected Agriculture: The role of mobile in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain data sheet 841 Views
Kirk, Matthew, Julie Steele, Christèle Delbé, Laura Crow, Steven Yurisich, Barry Nee, Gareth Weir, Kathryn Brownlie, Oliver Grange
Publication Date: 
Oct 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This report focuses on the opportunity to improve agricultural productivity using mobile services, highlighting the opportunity to bring new investment to a key group: smallholder farmers. Mobile telephony could have significant potential to help the poorest farmers towards greater food and income security.

Only in recent years that mobile communications technology has been widely accepted as an enabler of sustainable growth. In developing markets, where the deployment of mobile telecommunications networks has surpassed traditional fixed-line technology, the mobile telecoms industry is well-placed as an enabler of higher performance in the value chain. There is a distinct need for market-led opportunities, and the opportunity for mobile operators to deliver these is significant.

The mobile services studied here enable companies to access and interact directly with different participants in the value chain, helping to build visibility of issues, capacity and quality. They will support company sustainability objectives, and in particular, progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals by helping to reduce poverty, improve health and increase funding for education.

This report aims to stimulate the necessary engagement between mobile operators, governments, NGOs and businesses to realize these opportunities and explore others.


Sowing Seeds with SMS: Assessing Mobile Phones' Role in Agricultural Extension

Posted by EKStallings on Oct 06, 2011

Mobile phones may be one mechanism to increase effectiveness and efficiency for agricultural extension in low-income countries. Agricultural extension, broadly defined as the delivery of information to small-scale farmers, was developed to counteract information asymmetries suffered by farmers with limited access to information sources like landline phones, newspapers, radios and TV programming.  This has meant that farmers have not been able to take advantage of innovations in agricultural production (from seed types to information about pest control or crop rotations) and have been largely unable to increase their yields and hence incomes. 

While agricultural extension programs have tried to counteract this lack of information, they have also been long plagued by lack of scale, sustainability, relevance and responsiveness. Mobile phones, with their low-cost and capability for quick communication, may resolve many of these obstacles.

Dial “A” for Agriculture: A Review of Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Extension in Developing Countries, by Jenny C. Aker, a well-known researcher in the field, provides a broad overview of the shift toward using mobile phones in extension services and offers critical guides for assessing the effectiveness of such programs.

Half a century ago, extension programs were conceived to fill the glaring gap between agricultural innovation and crop yields. Despite great advances in agricultural innovations in the latter part of the twentieth century, farmers in Latin America and especially Sub-Saharan Africa have only seen slight increases in yields. Extension programs,which have largely taken the form of in-person visits and training, have consistently suffered from questions of cost-effectiveness.

Dial "A" for Agriculture: A Review of Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Extension in Developing Countries

Posted by EKStallings on Oct 04, 2011
Dial "A" for Agriculture: A Review of Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Extension in Developing Countries data sheet 1525 Views
Jenny C. Aker
Publication Date: 
Mar 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Agriculture can serve as an important engine for economic growth in developing countries, yet yields in low-income countries have lagged far behind those in developed countries for decades. One potential mechanism for increasing yields is the use of improved agricultural technologies, such as fertilizers, seeds and cropping techniques. Public-sector programs have attempted to overcome information- related barriers to technological adoption by providing agricultural extension services.


While such programs have been widely criticized for their limited scale, sustainability and impact, the rapid spread of mobile phone coverage in developing countries provides a unique opportunity to facilitate technological adoption via information and communication technology (ICT)-based extension programs.


This article outlines the potential mechanisms through which ICT could facilitate agricultural adoption and the provision of extension services in developing countries. It then reviews existing programs using ICT for agriculture, categorized by the mechanism (voice, text, internet and mobile money transfers) and the type of services provided. Finally, we identify potential constraints to such programs in terms of design and implementation, and concludes with some recommendations for implementing field-based research on the impact of these programs on farmers’ knowledge, technological adoption and welfare.

The World Bank

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 06, 2011

"The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. Our mission is to fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors.
We are not a bank in the common sense; we are made up of two unique development institutions owned by 187 member countries: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).

Each institution plays a different but collaborative role in advancing the vision of inclusive and sustainable globalization. The IBRD aims to reduce poverty in middle-income and creditworthy poorer countries, while IDA focuses on the world's poorest countries.

Organization Type: 
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.

Riding the Mobile Innovation Wave in Emerging Markets

Posted by kelechiea on Jun 16, 2011
Riding the Mobile Innovation Wave in Emerging Markets data sheet 1316 Views
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

If communications and high-tech companies are to achieve their growth targets over the next few years, they must look to the emerging economies. These markets, with large populations, hold great promise. Although many consumers in these areas live in rural areas and rely on more limited means, their disposable income has risen in recent years. Many such consumers have become more confident about the future, and are now willing to buy aspirational products such as mobile phones and services, even on credit.

To achieve high performance in this environment, companies must understand the key mobile trends as they evolve in developing economies. They must develop a deeper understanding of the mobile value proposition to emerging market consumers as well as their distinctive service needs. New distribution networks must be created. Content, products and services need to be tailored to local populations. These challenges will require new models of collaboration to succeed in a more complex ecosystem.


June Mobile Tech Salon, NYC: Our Mobile Data Exhaust

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jun 14, 2011

According to the Wall Street Journal, “[Data produced by the use of mobile phones] generates immense commercial databases that reveal the ways we arrange ourselves into networks of power, money, love and trust.” As mobile phone use increases and applications become increasingly sophisticated, the volume of mobile data we create continues to grow at an incredible rate, creating new possibilities and posing new challenges to notions of privacy.

Businesses want this data for marketing. Congress wants to regulate it. Activists and privacy advocates want to ensure that it is not used to compromise their safety or freedoms. Meanwhile, projects such as UN Global Pulse want to use information gleaned from mobile phone use to detect and prevent slow-onset humanitarian crises. We invite you to join us on the evening of June 30th for our next New York City-based Mobile Tech Salon as we explore these tough questions:

  • How do we determine socially beneficial uses for mobile data?
  • How can the safety, security, and privacy of individuals be respected while using mobile data to benefit them?
  • How can our mobile data be effectively aggregated and anonymized? Or can’t it?

Grameen Foundation

Posted by jasonhahn on Apr 06, 2011

At Grameen Foundation our goal is simple – we want to see poor people, especially the poorest and those living in harder to reach areas, have access to microfinance and technology and as a result of access to these services, move themselves out of poverty. We envision a world where the poor have broken the generational chain of poverty and lead lives of respect, dignity and opportunity. Grameen Foundation, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC with an office in Seattle, Washington, was founded in 1997 by friends of Grameen Bank to help microfinance practitioners and spread the Grameen philosophy worldwide. We share the ideas of 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus. Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank are independent organizations and have no financial or institutional links.

Organization Type: 
1101 15th Street, 3rd Floor
Postal code: 

India: The Impact of Mobile Phones (ICRIER Report)

Posted by rmlonline on Dec 13, 2010
India: The Impact of Mobile Phones (ICRIER Report) data sheet 2384 Views
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Research carried out by International Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). The ICRIER researchers looked at three segments of the population – the agriculture sector, the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector and urban slum dwellers. The research demonstrates that access to telecommunications is an important catalyst to realizing productivity and efficiency improvements and thereby making it possible for the benefits of economic growth. The research in this report on the uses and impacts of mobiles in agriculture show that improving productivity and rural incomes requires an array of enablers in the production cycle, which runs from planting to the final sale of produce; access to information is an important enabler.

The lack of adequate infrastructure is particularly acute in rural areas, home to 70% of India’s population and the 52% of the work force that is primarily engaged in agriculture and related activities. Agriculture in India accounts for 18% of national income, implying extremely low agricultural productivity. Until now, the focus of mobile operators’ attention has been on the more lucrative urban markets. The high cost of infrastructure rollout in less dense rural areas and affordability barriers for the rural population are likely reasons. But there are signs that this is changing. Infrastructure rollout in rural areas is now eligible for subsidy and all major providers have reported future plans for expansion in rural India.

Small farmers often struggle to access high-quality inputs such as advanced seed varieties, or services such as soil testing or credit, fertilizers, availability of loan options and efficient distribution networks and weather forecast. Therefore a very uneven access to information is seen currently. A national survey of farmers found that only 40% of farmer households accessed information about modern agricultural techniques and inputs while a lot of them still depend on other progressive farmers.

Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa

Posted by Agata on Oct 14, 2010
Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa data sheet 2914 Views
Annie Chéneau-Loquay
Publication Date: 
Sep 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The report entitled  "Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa" is published by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The democratization of mobile telephony in Africa, its availability, ease of use and, above all, the extent to which it has been appropriated by the public, have made it a major success story. Very low-income populations are not only actively demanding access to mobile telephone services but also innovating by creating the functions and applications they can use. Development is thus happening “from the bottom up” and an entire economy, both formal and informal in nature, has come into being to meet people’s needs. Many different actors – private, public, NGOs – are now mobilized.

Operators and manufacturers have successfully changed their economic model and adapted their products and applications to allow access to services at affordable prices. NGOs have in addition created a range of messaging- based services in different sectors. However, the future evolution of mobile telephony is not clear. A range of different approaches will co-exist, from SMS up to full Internet capacity, including experimental initiatives using smart phones and “netbooks”. Falling costs will lead to an increase in the number of phone devices with data receiving capacity.

Individuals and companies involved in creating services or applications for development will need to take account of their users’ demographics and incomes, as well as the pricing systems of telecommunication companies in countries where they wish to operate. In this, states and regulating authorities have grasped the crucial role which they must play in promoting an investment-friendly environment with the goal of achieving universal access and stimulating innovation – key factors in achieving a “critical mass” of users.

The advent on the African continent of high-capacity links via submarine cables will change the ground rules and force operators to seek new sources of revenue. The inventiveness that has already been evident in mobile voice telephony will be needed once again if the “mobile divide” (in terms of costs, power supply, and so on) is not to widen.

This report takes stock of developments in this sector, which is crucial to Africa’s economic development, and suggests a number of possible directions it might take.

Use of ICTs among Researchers, Extension Workers and Farmers: Implications for a National Agricultural Extension Policy on ICTs

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Sep 07, 2010
Use of ICTs among Researchers, Extension Workers and Farmers: Implications for a National Agricultural Extension Policy on ICTs data sheet 2269 Views
Agwu A. E; U. C. Uche-Mba and O. M. Akinnagbe
Publication Date: 
Jun 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The study ascertained the level of usage as well as constraints to the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) among major stakeholders in the agricultural development process in Abia and Enugu States of Nigeria. Data for the study were generated from a sample of 110 respondents using structured interview schedule and questionnaire.

Findings indicate that majority (52.5%, 57.5% and 56.7%) of researchers; extension workers and farmers had high, moderate and low knowledge levels of available ICTs, respectively. Out of 24 information communication technologies in use among the respondents, 11 were frequently utilized by researchers, while only 4 and 3 of the facilities were frequently utilized by extension workers and farmers, respectively.

The study revealed major constraints to the use of ICTs to include lack of sufficiently trained computer personnel, lack of confidence in operating modern ICTs, erratic and fluctuating power supply, poor finance, lack of internet access in the rural areas and high cost of ICTs hard and soft wares, among others. The study concludes with the need to have a National Agricultural Extension Policy on the use of ICTs with major emphasis on access, availability and use.

How to RapidSMS

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 23, 2010
How to RapidSMS data sheet 7426 Views

A how-to guide on using and implementing RapidSMS for mobile data collection and communication.

Ths manual give an overview for how to implement and use RapidSMS in a mobile data collection project. RapidSMS is a SMS framework for data collection, group coordination, and complex SMS workflows.  The tutorial outlines when and when not to use RapidSMS, guides the user through project steps and milestones, outlines factors for a successful implementation, and provides worksheets for project planning. Example training materials are included.

More documentation and developers guides can be found here on the RapidSMS site.

Mobile Tools: 

The Mobile Minute - Friday's edition

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 16, 2010

The Mobile Minute, our new feature, is here to keep you up-to-date on mobile-related news. Today's stories are about the number of Google searches made on mobile phones, an updated version of the PDA survey kit, the relationship between ICTs and accountable governments, and an octopus-themed mobile app.

  • "Mobile Accounts for 10% of Google Searches, Says Analyst" This Read, Write, Web article looks at comScore search market data – and found that mobile phones are used to make more than 1 billion monthly Google searches in the U.S. 
  • "WFP PDASurvey" The World Food Program released an updated version of its PDA-based data collection tool. The group says that the program "allows very large questionnaires to be built very rapidly and deployed onto many PDAs using flash memory cards."
  • "Full Circle: ANSA-Africa Newsletter" The latest ANSA-Africa Newsletter looks at government accountability and the role ICTs can play in giving citizens a means of expression. Other topics include local government social media and responsibility, ICTs in Kenya, and creating connections in Bangladesh. (via Accountability 2.0)
  • "Paul the Psychic Octopus Gets an App" If you find yourself without psychic guidance now that Paul the Octopus (who gained fame by correctly predicting all of Germany's World Cup matches, as well as the final) has retired, a new iPhone app called "Ask the Octopus Oracle" can fill the void. 

[Mobile Minute Disclaimer: The Mobile Minute is a quick round-up of interesting stories that have come across our RSS and Twitter feeds to keep you informed of the rapid pace of innovation. Read them and enjoy them, but know that we have not deeply investigated these news items. For more in-depth information about the ever-growing field of mobile tech for social change, check out our blog-postswhite papers and researchhow-tos, and case studies.]

Image courtesy Flickr user QiFei

The Secret Weapons in Niger’s Fight Against Hunger: Photo IDs & Mobile Phones. A Guest Post from Concern Worldwide

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jun 09, 2010

This guest post was submitted by Amanda McClelland, Emergency Nutrition and Food Security Manager, Concern Worldwide, Niger.

I arrived in Niger three months ago to help the Concern Worldwide country team scale up and roll out an emergency program to respond to the emerging food crisis.  It’s hard to say when exactly this shifted from an “impending crisis” to a real humanitarian emergency, but we are there now. And we are putting every bit of the planning this team has done since December to the test. The official Food Security survey of April 2010 states that there are 7.1 million people facing hunger: 3.3 million of those are considered to be facing extremely food shortages and unable to feed their families’ without help.  Concern’s program is in Tahoua, the second worst affected part of the country.

Every day, we are working at maximum capacity on initiatives to prevent rates of malnutrition from reaching emergency thresholds.  We are distributing seed packs and fertilizer to help families plant crops in time for the next harvest; providing nutrition support to children under five, pregnant women and mothers; and are launching an innovative use of mobile phone technology (and manual transfers) to distribute emergency cash to the most vulnerable women. We have high hopes for this program—and we are starting to see its great potential. (Note of the editor: Concern conducted a similar mobile cash program in Kenya in 2008 that we wrote up on here. Concern also published an extensive evaluation of the Kenya programme (PDF)

What we are doing sounds easy when I write it, but delivering aid in Niger is anything but easy.

The Secret Weapons in Niger’s Fight Against Hunger: Photo IDs & Mobile Phones. A Guest Post from Concern Worldwide data sheet 5417 Views
Countries: Niger

Mobile Data for Early Warning

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 11, 2010

As we are completing an inventory of mobile date collection projects around the world that are focused on vulnerable populations and early warning, we've come across a few efforts that are worth highlighting. One is the SMS and PDA-based surveying of the World Food Programme (WFP).  WFP's food security monitoring systems are set up in many countries.  While some countries are still submitting paper records, there is a push to incorporate PDAs or SMS data transmission for faster and more reliable monitoring of food security.

The data collected includes both food security baseline data and food insecurity indicators. The bulk of WFP's data collected focuses on nutritional indicators, market prices, import, cross border trades, socioeconomic indicators, and health indicators. The UN agency is trialing both FrontlineSMS and RapidSMS, two mobile data collection software tools, in its current projects, as well as PDAs but is likely going to standardize its operations using one of the two with some custom gateway software.

In the process of collecting data, WFP always collaborates with governments and other UN partners. WFP staff are involved with the supervision, training and coordination but but the people who conduct interviews and collect the data are usually government staff, university students, or NGO workers As one WFP staffer noted, "We have huge armies of data collectors."

The scope of the work is accordingly large. Some of the efforts cover an entire country. In Senegal, for example, WFP has 250 numerators covering the country – 22 teams of 11 people each who are collecting data for six weeks, visiting 2,000 villages.

The video below features George Muammar of the WFP Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Unit. He describes rapid data collection in an Emergency Food Security Assessment in Goma, N. Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Consumentor Ek. förening

Posted by Ola Thorsen on Apr 15, 2010

Consumentor is a cooperative with 10 employes.Our goal is to offer a simple and flexible tool that enables all consumers to make longterm sustainable consumer choises on a daily bases. It should be easy, fun and awarding to do right !

Organization Type: 
House of Win-Win, Tredje Långgatan 13 B
Västra Götaland
Postal code: 

Cash Transfers through Mobile Phones: An Innovative Emergency Response in Kenya

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 23, 2010
Cash Transfers through Mobile Phones: An Innovative Emergency Response in Kenya data sheet 3806 Views
Dipankar Datta, Anne Ejakait, Kim Scriven
Publication Date: 
Aug 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Kenya was one of the first countries to use mobile phones for cash transfers; through a service called M‐PESA, developed by Safaricom Limited. Concern Worldwide has pioneered the use of M‐PESA for emergency cash transfers in Kenya. This paper highlights Concern’s experience, which shows that despite initial software and logistical challenges, mobile phone technology offers a unique and empowering approach to efficiently deliver assistance to the most vulnerable people living in insecure and remote rural areas.

Experience also shows that cash transfers are a better option than food distributions in areas where adequate supplies of food are locally available. In addition, the partnership between Concern and Safaricom demonstrates that the private sector has significant and unique abilities to enhance the effectiveness of emergency response, and more importantly they can do so while maintaining their core business principles. The case study also demonstrates how technology can empower poor, marginalised and vulnerable people.

Vodafone Americas Foundation Announces Last Call for Innovation Project

Posted by MHut on Jan 28, 2010

The Vodafone Americas Foundation is announcing the last call for nominations for the second annual Wireless Innovation Project, a competition to identify and reward the most promising advances in wireless related technologies that can be used to solve critical problems around the globe. Proposals will be accepted through February 1, 2010, with the final winners announced on April 19, 2010 at the annual Global Philanthropy Forum in Redwood City, California. 

Vodafone Americas Foundation Announces Last Call for Innovation Project data sheet 4866 Views
Global Regions:
Countries: United States

Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 07, 2009

We will be blogging and twittering this week from a workshop we are co-hosting on Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action in Amman, Jordan.

Co-hosted by UNICEF’s country office in Iraq, UNICEF Innovation, and, this three-day gathering is bringing invited experts from around the world together to explore some of the key issues related to using mobiles for data collection and analysis of some of the toughest social issues.

Why are we hosting this event?

With the ubiquity of mobile technology, data collection and monitoring of key indicators from the ground up by affected populations is now possible. Mobile technology in the hands of people can now be more than a person-to-person communication medium but can be used for capturing, classifying and transmitting image, audio, location and other data, interactively or autonomously.

Using mobiles for rural literacy and market information in Niger: Projet ABC / IMAC

Posted by admin on Dec 03, 2009

This guest post was written by Joshua Haynes who is studying for his Masters of International Business, at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Reposted with Hayes' permission.

Projet Alphabétisation de Base par Cellulaire (ABC), conceived of and spearheaded by Tufts University professor Jenny Aker, uses mobiles phones as tools to aid in adult literacy acquisition in rural Niger. 

Adult literacy in rural areas faces an inherent problem.  In Niger, for example, there are no novels, newspapers, or journals in native languages like Hausa or Zarma.  The 20% of Nigériens who are literate are literate in French.  The vast majority of rural villagers have struggled to maintain their livelihoods since time immemorial without ever knowing how to read a single word. What’s the point of literacy if there is no need for written materials?

Using mobiles for rural literacy and market information in Niger: Projet ABC / IMAC data sheet 4992 Views
Countries: Niger

Mobile Phones and Development: An Analysis of IDRC-Supported Projects

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 08, 2009
Mobile Phones and Development: An Analysis of IDRC-Supported Projects data sheet 3216 Views
Ahmed T. Rashid, Laurent Elder
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

In the context of the rapid growth of mobile phone penetration in developing countries, mobile telephony is currently considered to be particularly important for development. Yet, until recently, very little systematic evidence was available that shed light on the developmental impacts of mobile telecommunication.

The Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) program of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, has played a critical role in filling some of the research gaps through its partnerships with several key actors in this area.

The objective of this paper is to evaluate the case of mobile phones as a tool in solving development problems drawing from the evidence of IDRC supported projects. IDRC has supported around 20 projects that cut across several themes such as livelihoods, poverty reduction, health, education, the environment and disasters. The projects will be analyzed by theme in order to provide a thematic overview as well as a comparative analysis of the development role of mobile phones. In exploring the evidence from completed projects as well as the foci of new projects, the paper summarizes and critically assesses the key findings and suggests possible avenues for future research.

When People, not Computers, Sort SMS Data

Posted by CorinneRamey on Sep 17, 2009

Currently, most SMS surveys have questions that ask people to respond to a menu of multiple choice answers.  But Textonic, an open-source tool that helps sort open-ended text responses, seeks to change that.

"I think it's potentially a major shift in terms of the way we do social research," said Thomas Robertson, one of the lead developers on the project.

Textonic, which has yet to be actually used, was developed as part of a graduate class taught by Clay Shirky in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. The tool is a way of connecting RapidSMS, the data collection platform used by UNICEF, with Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Does Digital Divide or Provide? The Impact of Cell Phones on Grain Markets in Niger

Posted by LeighJaschke on Sep 15, 2009
Does Digital Divide or Provide? The Impact of Cell Phones on Grain Markets in Niger data sheet 2034 Views
Aker, Jenny
Publication Date: 
Feb 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Due partly to costly information, price dispersion across markets is common in developed and
developing countries. Between 2001 and 2006, cell phone service was phased in throughout Niger, providing an alternative and cheaper search technology to grain traders and other market actors. We construct a novel theoretical model of sequential search, in which traders engage in optimal search for the maximum sales price, net transport costs. 

The model predicts that cell phones will increase traders’ reservation sales prices and the number of markets over which they search, leading to a reduction in price dispersion across markets.  To test the predictions of the theoretical model, we usea unique market and trader dataset from Niger that combines data on prices, transport costs, rainfall and grain production with cell phone access and trader behavior.  We first exploit the quasi-experimental nature of cell phone coverage to estimate the impact of the staggered introduction of information technology on market performance. 

The results provide evidence that cell phones reduce grain price dispersion across markets by a minimum of 6.4 percent and reduce intra-annual price variation by 10 percent.  Cell phones have a greater impact on price dispersion for market pairs that are farther away, and for those with lower road quality. This effect becomes larger as a higher percentage of markets have cell phone coverage.  We provide empirical evidence in support of specific mechanisms that partially explain the impact of cell phones on market performance. 

Robustness checks suggest that the results are not driven by selection on unobservables, nor are they solely a result of general equilibrium effects.  Calculations of the four-firm concentration index suggest that the grain market structure is competitive, so the observed reductions in price dispersion are not due to greater market collusion.  The primary mechanism by which cell phones affect market-level outcomes appears to be a reduction in search costs, as grain traders operating in markets with cell phone coverage search over a greater number of markets and sell in more markets.  The results suggest that cell phones improved consumer and trader welfare in Niger, perhaps averting an even worse outcome during the 2005 food crisis.


Posted by wildneil on Sep 09, 2009

WildKnowledge (WK) are a spin out company from Oxford Brookes University in the UK. WK enables members to create and share mobile recording forms (WildForm), decision trees (WildKey), maps (WildMap) and diagrams (WildImage). These tools enable the user to make informed decisions in the field and gather good quality data. This collated data can then be uploaded and shared as part of collaborative projects. Most of our members are UK school children and students, we are keen to explore new areas both geographically and contextually. All WK applications are wep apps and can work on any device with a web browser from a mobile device to a laptop (functionality will vary according to browser's capabilities).

Organization Type: 
United Kingdom

The GSMA Development Fund Top 20 Research on the Economic and Social Impact of Mobile Communications in Developing Countries

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 14, 2009
The GSMA Development Fund Top 20 Research on the Economic and Social Impact of Mobile Communications in Developing Countries data sheet 3790 Views
HMS Wireless
Publication Date: 
May 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The positive implications of landline telecoms infrastructure and, more recently, of mobile communications on
economic growth in the developed world have long been acknowledged, with numerous studies analysing the
issue. Now that most of the developed world has reached high penetration levels of mobile phones, both current
growth patterns and future projections suggest that virtually all of the mobile industry’s new customers in the
coming years will come from developing countries. In fact, as of 2007, there were more mobile customers in
developing countries than in the entire developed world (ITU).
What impact are mobile phones having on developing countries and are user experiences and overall impacts
unique or similar to those of developed countries? While it might seem intuitive to just extrapolate from the results
of earlier studies in developed countries, the developing world is in fact leap-frogging the developed world when
it comes to mobile communication and its many uses. The implications of this technology on daily life in
developing countries appear to be more far-reaching than they were in the earlier developed country rollouts. For
example, studies have demonstrated that mobile technology is driving improvements in social links, the creation
of social capital, improved market information flows and productivity, as well as increases in GDP and Foreign
Direct Investment.
This report surveys recent research and highlights the top studies in this area based on content, relevance,
originality and credibility. While it is not an exhaustive and scientifically developed list, it illustrates the work that
we feel is most important at the moment and highlights key conclusions on the impact of mobile technology in
developing countries.
Further, while the existing research is valuable in understanding the impacts, the literature is still limited in its
coverage and scope. We therefore recommend additional research to expand evidence and knowledge, particularly
with respect to basic economic studies, prospective applications and the needs of users around financial services.
We also call on stakeholders such as mobile operators, governments, industry groups, foundations and
development organisations to play their part in improving information sharing, increasing research and driving
developments in these countries.
Finally, we provide information on additional research on impacts and policy issues, as well.