The wonderful folk at GSMA mAgri have collated data to produce this wonderful infographic to show how mobile phones can bridge the information gap experienced by farmers in developing countries and thus reduce the productivity gap.
In the developed world, we are surrounded by media everywhere we go. As well as the everpresent Internet feeds of Twitter, Facebook and email, the radio or TV is always on in the background and newspapers are never far out of reach. And if those aren’t telling you what you need to know, a quick SMS to the right person should have you on the ball in no time. We live in a world when we can find out whatever we want, whenever we want to. Information and knowledge is at our fingertips.
When you apply this to agriculture, farmers are aware of weather reports, new technologies, disease outbreaks, failed crops that will drive prices up. They are able to process this information and respond. However, 99% of people who work in agriculture are in the developing world and do not have access to this same amount of information. They do not have access to regular updates, rumours of new farming models, or changing market prices. Lack of information unlevels the playing field.
We hear regular scare stories about the growing population and how we are going to feed the 9 billion people we are expecting to populate the earth. If we just level the playing field so information is shared with those currently lacking access, our food system would be a lot more productive. Increase production where it can safely be increased rather than draining the land of all its resources through intensive farming.
Mobile phone penetration was at 4% across developing countries in 2000. This increased to 70% in 2010 and is predicted to reach 101% by 2014. There is a fantastic opportunity here to use mobile technology to close this gap. There is already movement in this sector. M-Farm gives farmers in Kenya up to date market information. iCow is helping dairy farmers over the poverty line by providing useful tools and information. In preparation for the changing world we are in, mWater create apps and APIs to provide open data to low resource communities to help them identify safe water sources. And just wait for the Sustaination mobile app and SMS functionality that will be out in 2013 to help farmers find new routes to market.
The idea of sharing information to level the playing field is why Sustaination was founded. Let’s build a stronger, safer and fairer food system. It all starts with information. There is a huge opportunity for mobile in this space. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see how it’s going to change our world.